Gallery-going is one thing, but visiting the studio where art is created, and chatting with the artist who brought that vision to life, is another experience entirely. Although the studio visit is typically a rare and precious opportunity reserved for dealers and collectors, thanks to the Santa Barbara Studio Artists Group, these visits have become an annual public event. Traditionally taking place on the last weekend in August, the Open Studios Tour allows paying participants to organize their own itineraries through as many as 35 separate artists’ studios over the course of two days.
We previewed the tour last week at artist Betsy Gallery’s cozy cottage and studio combo on the Eastside of Santa Barbara. Gallery specializes in mosaics, and her work is featured everywhere from the nearby Franklin Elementary School to private collections as far-flung as Taipei, Taiwan. Gallery’s current project is inspired by children’s drawings she purchased in a Santa Barbara thrift store more than 20 years ago. These whimsical mosaics offer a fresh and unique take on an ancient practice, and the studio where they are made is full of interesting tools and artwork.
Each artist on the tour has an individual style and favorite media. Pamela Larsson-Toscher paints in oils, while Francine Kirsch makes sculpture with ceramics, and Neal Crosbie assembles graphic mixed-media works out of diverse elements. For more about the Open Studios Tour, or to purchase tickets, visit santabarbarastudioartists.com/tour or just show up at the Santa Barbara Frame Shop and Gallery (1324 State St.) on Friday, August 24, at 5 p.m. for the opening reception. Below, we break down just a few of the tour’s selling points.
1. Choose Your Own Experience: The tour is self-guided, so visitors create their own driving routes and visit only those studios that pique their interest.
2. Explore Multiple Media: “It’s not just easel painting,” explained Gallery from her tile-filled studio. In fact, the 35 artists on the tour work in myriad media, including pottery, watercolor paintings, sculpture, and collage.
3. Learn the Trade: With open studios, you can draw back the curtain and step “behind the canvas.”
4. Play at Being a Tourist: Because these studios are located all over town, you are bound to explore at least one part of Santa Barbara that’s new to you.