By Newlin Tillotson
Tiverton, RI – A haven for artistic expression, the coastal towns of Tiverton and Little Compton, Rhode Island and Westport and Dartmouth, Massachusetts offer artists a close-knit community and a space for creativity.
Each summer, the artists open their studios to art enthusiasts across New England for the South Coast Artists Open Studio Tour. Taking place over two weekends in July and August, the Open Studio Tour allows visitors to explore galleries and interact with artists in their own workspaces. The destinations are scattered throughout the scenic coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts so visitors also have the chance to take in the marine landscape and local culture that include farmers markets and cafés.
One of the first studios on the map is that of story artist Don Cadoret. Cadoret’s art is illustrative and features animals and humans with a storybook quality to them. His work incorporates influences from pointillism artist, Georges Seurat, with trees and landscapes painted with vivid dots. Much of his work is based on commission and is representative of the families he paints for.
“Simplify and Savor Life,” an acrylic on masonite piece, pictures a family of bears under a tree. There are small details included such as a key on a branch, a yin yang symbol in the frame and an owl perched above the bears. Everything in his work is inspired by the interviews he conducts with those who commission it.
“I will interview them and get an idea of what they are looking for,” Cadoret said. “Those who commission me a work will just trust that something will come out of it that reflects them. With the “Simplify” piece I incorporated the bear because it represents strength, and in the interview with the woman who commissioned it she said her husband was a lawyer and everything he does is very deliberate.”
Cadoret is also working on painting vintage book covers. The covers are re-designs that incorporate themes from the book painted in an illustrative way. While many of his pieces are done for clients, he also creates series that explore different subjects such as the pollinator series of different birds and insects.
Further into Tiverton is the studio of painter, photographer and sculptor Kelly Milukas. Milukas’s work reflects the local scenes. In her studio she displayed pastel and painted pictures of the ocean and farm life. She also had a mix of abstract art including “Stem Streams” a fist place winner in the Creative Waters South Coast Artists contest.
Currently, Milakus is working on getting back into sculpture and has added on an addition to her studio with concrete flooring. Her most recent sculptures incorporate keys made from both found keys and molds.
In the heart of the South Coast are a number of galleries that show work of both local artists and outside artists. Donovan Gallery showcases the work of Kris Donovan, a watercolor and pastel artists who lives in Tiverton, along with the work of several other artists including the collages of Tom Deininger. Deininger’s work is expressive and includes a mix of media from magazine clippings to paint.
For a respite from the heat a great place to stop on the tour is the Art Café, owned by artists Josie Arkins and Judith Parente, where visitors can grab a cold drink and take in a variety of art from jewelry design to photography. Mother-daughter silversmiths Susan and Nina Barker were exhibiting their jewelry in the main gallery at the café. Susan’s work incorporates a lot of leaves inspired foliage she sees as a horticulture judge for a garden club. The pieces are one-of-a-kind statement jewelry with colorful details. Nina, who also works for Architectural Digest in New York City, has a similar style to her mothers and incorporates some of the designs she learned from her.
On the way out of town, visitors can stop at one of the many farmers markets that have flourished thanks to the farming culture of Rhode Island. Walker’s farm stand sells fruits, vegetables and flowers and has a neighboring sandwich shop, Wilma’s, where a grilled Panini can help satisfy any appetite.
(South Coast Artists Open Studios is happening July 20 & 21 and again August 17 & 18. For a map of the studios and galleries and more information visit southcoastartists.org.)