—Jackie Genis

19 new artists on the tour
Open to the public, this year’s fifth anniversary celebration tour brings new artists and plenty of fresh inspiration. The popular self-guided tour will launch during its annual preview exhibition and artists’ reception on Friday, Nov. 3, at the CAVE, the new contemporary art space located at 108 Evergreen Boulevard in downtown Vancouver. The actual tour happens just one week later on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11-12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The tour is guaranteed to inspire,” said Jennifer Williams, director for Open Studios. “On Open Studios weekend, visitors can learn first-hand about techniques in painting, printmaking, sculpture, glass, ceramic, jewelry, fiber arts, and photography.”

Open Studios delivers excitement
This year expect to see diverse works of 53 local artists in the heartbeat of their studios. Nineteen of these artists are new to the tour. You can get a taste of the tour early at the preview exhibit and artists’ reception, meet the artists, pick up a guidebook, and enjoy music from Artist Chris Bidleman’s Upfront Band. Trusty Brewery will pour tastes of their award winning brews. A portion of sales from the preview exhibition will go toward Arts of Clark County.

“After five years, I’m still surprised by the number of new artists applying and participating,” said Jennifer Williams, director for Open Studios. “It’s really a testament to how many artists we actually have here in Clark County.”

New artists breathe life and diversity into the tour
The tour allows artists and artisans to share the how of their work behind the why of the inspiration. You get to see where the artist creates and feel the positive energy that only creativity can generate.

“People love to get a look behind the scenes of the creative process,” said Williams, “and if you plan on shopping for art there is nothing more gratifying than knowing the artist.”

For some artists, their vision has turned into a full-time business. Others embrace their creativity as a way of life. Either way, the benefits to participating artists are numerous, including the unique chance to shine, gain recognition, and show and sell work. The artistic exposure further creates meaningful connections, leads to networking, cultural enrichment, art accessibility, and new gallery representation.
“This is my first year with Open Studios because it’s actually my first year in Vancouver,” said artist Noah Matteucci. “I moved here earlier this year with my partner from Honolulu, Hawaii, where we lived for the last six years.”

Matteucci earned his MFA in Hawaii and was an active member of the printmaking scene. He said when he moved to Clark County, he didn’t see anything similar print-wise on this side of the river so he decided to carve out a workshop in his basement where he could create digital, relief, and screen printing renderings.

“Art is a means of expressing, challenging, and exchanging ideas,” said Matteucci. “By making art, we can participate in a conversation that shapes our community – art changes depending on who’s making it – but I think this works as a feedback loop because art changes people too.”

Among other new artists to the tour this year, Washougal resident and woodworking artist John Furniss was drawn to the tour, he said, because of his love for Clark County and the supportive communities. After going totally blind at age 16, Furniss continued to nurture and develop his lifelong passion for working with his hands.

“Since my hands are my eyes, my work must be something I can feel, something that is accessible to a blind person,” said Furniss. “I come up with a color scheme in my mind and my wife helps me locate just the right pieces of wood.”

Furniss also said his woodworking is a visual release for him. He is able to take an image in his mind and transform it into a real object.

The talented woodworker is looking forward to sharing his process and talking with folks during the Open Studios tour. “I’ve definitely seen the art community blossom since I moved here in 2011,” he said. “Art has a way of bringing people together.”

Megan Eckman, another of the new artists, is excited to join the tour this year to elevate her work as an artist to another level. “I was happy to discover there were many opportunities in the community, both for displaying my work and meeting other local artists,” she said.

Eckman’s work is about aesthetic beauty reveling in patterns and details. She plays with expectations and wants people to create their own meaningful narratives for her renderings. “I turn the portrait literally back to front and make you come up with the face to go with the hair.”

Embracing change
Eckman said she would love to see more galleries open up in Clark County that show the work of regional and national artists. “Art and artists hold true power when it comes to change,” she said, “we can give a movement a voice, sway opinions, and lead an army of thinkers – art can bring about incredible change if you have the proper support and strong artists behind it.”

Plan your tour to maximize your must-see list
Artist studios are located throughout the county. This means it is a good idea to plan your tour so that you can ensure experiencing each artist on your must-see list. Free printed guidebooks are available in advance of the event at sponsor business locations as well as the preview show. You can also view or print your own guide, access a custom Google map with suggested routes, learn more about each artist, and find a list of venues with guides at the Open Studios website.