It’s been a rough couple of years for working artists. The COVID pandemic triggered the closures of galleries and the cancellation of art shows and festivals that artists rely on for income.
So you can’t blame the organizers of the annual Philomath Open Studios art tour and sale for thinking hard about resuming the event in 2021 after COVID prompted its cancellation in 2020.
Last year, organizers made the final decision that it was too early to resume.
“We decided not to proceed, because so many of these studios are in people’s homes,” said Beth Rietveld, a Corvallis fiber artist and one of the organizers of the tour. “And that makes it really hard.”
But 2022 is a different story — and so the Philomath Open Studios art tour and sale is returning this weekend and next with 23 artists stationed at 10 locations — mostly, but not exclusively, artists’ working studios. (Two of the locations are wineries, Compton Family Wineries and Lumos Wine Co. See the information box below for more details about this year’s tour.)
Rietveld said one of the appeals of the Philomath Open Studios event is the opportunity it presents to visit the studios where some of the artists work — “seeing the spaces where the art is made.”
In fact, Rietveld plans to be working on her artworks, even as a guest in the studio of Debby Sundbaum-Sommers: “I’m one of those people who likes to have things in my hands. And so I make baskets. And I sit and wrap fabric on clothesline. A lot of people will ask me questions about how my baskets are made.”
This is Rietveld’s fifth year participating in the tour. New artists can join the tour only at the invitation of a tour artist.
Philomath artist Justin Wolford is one of 2022’s tour rookies. Wolford, who teaches computer science at Oregon State University, is displaying wood and resin topographic maps in the gallery of sculptor Merrlll Sommers. Wolford takes United States Geographic Service data for landforms and water bodies and translates the information into instructions for a precision laser cutter. He then pours resin in a way that captures the motion or depth of the water body.
His invitation to this year’s tour came courtesy of a longtime connection: He’s been friends with Zach Sommers, the son of Merrill Sommers, since they were in the master’s program in computer science at OSU. Zach Sommers’s spouse commissioned Wolford to make one of his topographic pieces. Merrill Sommers picked up the piece for delivery to his son, liked what he saw, and thought Wolford would be a good guest artist.
Wolford grew up in Hawaii fascinated by aerial maps (his father was a charter pilot) and has pursued photography. Part of what he teaches now at OSU is how to work with large data sets — and topographical data is relatively easy to work with, he said. His work with the topographical pieces he creates is “kind of a great mix” of many of his interests — “the technology, with the laser engraving and cutting, along with the artistic portion of the resin pour.”
Regardless of whether you’re a veteran of numerous tours or a rookie, the artists in each tour have to pull their weight to make each tour successful, Rietveld said: “Everyone has a volunteer responsibility. There is no sliding in and no resting on your laurels. Everybody has to work.”
But, Reitveld said, it’s work she does with people she likes, and that makes a big difference: “It’s such a fun group of people. That’s why I stay involved.”
PHILOMATH OPEN STUDIOS ART TOUR AND SALE When: The tour runs for two weekends: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 29-30. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. each day. Where: The tour includes 10 stops this year and features 23 artists. The event’s website, philomathopenstudios.com, includes a map with all 10 locations and information about each of the artists. As in years past, bright yellow signs will identify participating locations. Participating artists: Ann Lahr, Dale Donovan, Debi Friedlander, Jeff Gunn, Sara Morrissey, Kate McGee, Merrill Sommers, Debby Sundbaum-Sommers, Leslie Tejada, Dominique Bachelet, Chris Bentley, Mark Gillespie, Kristin Hager, Anthony Gordon, Carol Houk, Steve Terhune, Jean Lawrence, Justin Wolford, Linda Herd, Kris Mitchell, Phil Coleman, Gale Everett, and Beth Rietveld. How much: It’s all free – but consider bringing some money along to, you know, buy artworks. Of note: COVID numbers are declining, but Rietveld noted that some of the artists at host sites still may require tour participants to wear masks, in part because the studios can be relatively small spaces.