Photos and story by Dave Warner

By any account, the Open Studios of Washington County tour last weekend was a huge success. The tour is an admission-free biennial event featuring the artwork of regional artists in their working environments.

This year the group went all out and launched a new website, video and studio tour app.  According to tour organizer Sue Sanderson it all paid off.  “It looks like we got at least double the number of visitors into the studios to experience it, but I’ve only got about half of the artists counts back and it looks like it’s going to be over 4,000 individual studio visits.”

Sanderson went on to say “I think because we’re an established tour, this being our sixth, so once we announce, people start making their plans. Extending it four days I think definitely had an impact and  extending it to 20 artists had a very big impact.”

“I think that adding the demos this year also was a big plus, because we got immediate sign-ups and basically sold out of four of the seven demos. And then people (even if they didn’t have a reservation) were showing up. People like Jeri Macdonald with the Ink on Yupo – everybody who attended her workshop walked out with a piece. Karen Koziol was supposed to be 15 people and I think ended up with 25,” stated Sanderson. “I think we put a little more depth to the experience with the artists.”

The process to get the next show going takes about 18 months. The call to artists, submission of works and then the juried portion, where the Open Studios of Washington County pays two jurors outside of the county to judge the work, takes up a lot of that time.

Once an artist is selected, then an inspection of their studio space is scheduled “making sure they’re accessible to the public and prepared,” stated Sanderson.

New artists to the tour get help with marketing – helping them to market themselves. This year social media experts from Simpson Square, who worked on the website, mobile app and video, came in and provided some help for those artists.

“Promoting the arts, I think, is not only a big part of who we are, and the huge resource of our surroundings and our county, but it’s also a big business. We will have sold over $100,000 of art in those four days, and that’s not a little (bit) adding back into the tax base,” stated Sanderson.

The showcase was established in 2005 by artists Serena Kovalosky and Brenda McMahon. Five previously successful tours have brought thousands of visitors to the local studios and over the years have generated significant sales for the participating artists.

The images below are just a small sample of what there was to see on the tour. To find out more and to plan on attending future events, visit www.studiotour.org.