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Open Studios this weekend – dig in!

Open Studios is starting this weekend, and it’s a wonderful event to take your kids to.

Many areas have Open Studios, but I doubt that so many have such a huge amount of high quality in one concentrated location. I once went to hear the late Spalding Gray speak at UCSC. He said that he had this sense that people come to Santa Cruz for healing. I think this is true, but I also think that people generally come here for the examined life.

For an area that, in total, has one-sixth the population of San Francisco (a very small city), we’re amazing. We have symphony, opera, too many theater troupes to mention, jazz, poetry, and art. And we have all this for kids, as well. Because when you’re not doing it, what do you do? You teach it.

Many of our Open Studios artists are regulars on the kids’ teaching circuit, but even if they aren’t, they are teachers just by what they do. A small percentage of our local artists make their money from art; the others make it some other way and practice art for the love of it. This is a lesson that is so important in our very money-focused time.

Artists also teach us persistence. The ones in Open Studios are generally not new at their craft. Often they started somewhere else, and came to their art through experimentation and curiosity.

One of the great innovations of this year’s Open Studios calendar is that it notes which artists plan to be doing demonstrations of their work. Demonstrations are key to helping kids enjoy Open Studios. Some things my kids have seen over the years are: glass blowing and fused glass, metal cut right in front of us so that it was still almost burning hot when the artist passed it to our preschooler son (oops!), encaustic created on the spot as we chatted with the artist, seeing a photographer’s set-up where he took the photograph we were buying, and then his photos (still on his computer) from the bizarre spider he’d had on his deck the day before, lithograph prints made on the spot by my children on the artist’s press… I could go on.

Some of our favorite artists are not in Open Studios this year, but I’ll mention a few that are. They are our favorites for a variety of reasons: They have great demos, they are friends of ours, we think their art is really cool, we think their studios are really cool. I mention them less than to say “go see them” than to show you what a wide variety is out there.

Daniella Woolf is an old friend I met when I was in the graphic design business. She and I went our separate paths, and when I resurfaced as Mommy she resurfaced as an encaustic artist. She does a demonstration of her art (gluing stuff to canvas with melted wax, basically speaking), and she always puts out a great spread of snacks. (With kids, this is an important note!!)

Andrea Rich is someone we return to year after year simply because of the amazing nature of her craft. She does woodcut prints of animals and nature scenes, and they are fantastic. She’s usually out back in her studio, and she’s happy to explain her craft to you. One of the cool things is that her art is an ephemeral one: as she cuts from the same block for each successive color, she destroys the block and is thus creating a limited set of prints that can never be recreated. (She often also has some birds from Native Animal Rescue in her enormous birdcage. Bonus for the kids!)

Susan Vaughan is a relative newcomer to Open Studios, and I have to admit that we haven’t visited her in Open Studios before. But we got to know her last year when our sons became friends, and she has recently moved into the new artist lofts at the Tannery. There are lots of artists there — when you’re toting kids around, more bang for the buck is a big consideration. We like to do as little driving as possible, so that the kids don’t get too fussy. Susan says she’s planning on doing demonstrations, so ask her!

(About this point, you’d better go get a snack at a great bakery or taqueria. We have so many. I won’t try to influence your decision!)

Talking about bang for your buck, you have to go to the Seventeenth Avenue Studios. One of the reasons is that the location is fabulous. It’s a bunch of dilapidated old commercial buildings, including an original Quanset hut. There are lots of dead cars and weird stuff to see. And then there is the largest bunch of artists, all of whom are doing such completely radically different stuff, you’re bound to find something you like. We particularly like the wonderfully named Jane Harlow. She’s not one of the artists who really interacts with her visitors, but the quality of the work is great.

Daniel S. Friedman is a buddy of my husband’s (Oh, OK, Danny, I sorta like you too) and he does something pretty unique in Santa Cruz’s Open Studios: abstract painting. Danny really gets into the canvas: he displays his large collection of paint-splattered shoes on the driveway, plus the tools he uses to dig in. Say I sent you so he gives us some free art!

We love our friend Donna Vandijk’s incredible inventiveness — she not only is the only practitioner of her artform that I know of, she’s its inventor.

Oh, I know I’ve missed some of our friends, and our favorites, who are all wondering, why not me, ME!! The fact is, that practicing an art is a great achievement. It’s especially great in these times, when so many people are consumers, but not practitioners of anything. When we take our kids to Open Studios, we hope they see, think, and enjoy.

Even when they want to go and see the work of the watercolorist who does portraits of her cute dog over and over, it’s a worthwhile trip. Because that’s her art, and she’s doing it, and that’s a lesson we want our kids to learn.

Click here for more tips on going to Open Studios with kids.

Click here for local artists’ advice on visiting Open Studios with kids.

Posted in Arts & Music.

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