On Saturday, July 17, the weather in the South Coast was hot, humid and it did not let up through the weekend. Even so, art lovers came out in droves to attend the 18th annual South Coast Artist’s Open Studio Tour.
Approximately 75 galleries and studios across Dartmouth and Westport, Massachusetts, and Tiverton and Little Compton, Rhode Island opened their doors to the public. Some opening for the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Along with the stunning artwork on display, the real charm of the South Coast Artist’s Open Studio Tour was seeing the variety of workspaces used by artists across the region and learning about the behind-the-scenes processes that go into creating artwork.
According to some artists participating in the tour, visitor turnout was equal to the last in-person open studio tour in 2019. Kelly Milukas, a multimedia artist based out of Tiverton, sees this as a response to last summer’s period of isolation.
“Turn out has been fabulous, I had about 250 people yesterday. I think people are just craving being out,” said Milukas while scaling a ladder to the second-floor catwalk of her newly built studio. “We have contact tracing and I saw that there’s a lot of new people. A lot from Westport and of course we had a lot of people move here from other states.”
Milukas’ space was designed with education in mind. Her studio, built during the pandemic, comes complete with rows of warming tables for encaustic artwork, all the supplies any prospective student could need, and ample parking. Meticulously organized, the studio is a sight to behold.
In contrast to the high polish of Milukas’ studio, The Art Café in Little Compton wouldn’t look out of place in a period drama. This old farm building houses the studio of Josie Richmond Arkins, a printmaker and encaustic artist. The adjoining café gives visitors a chance to grab a bite to eat before they continue their tour inside of Arkins’ studio.
“So, this is my space that I get to keep messy,” said Arkins, showing guests around her workspace. “The funniest thing — on the tour they give tips on what to do and the first tip is to remove all personal items. That kind of takes the fun out of it.
Arkins’ space was lived-in and well-loved. She gave a demonstration of her process, walking visitors through how she melts wax, how she paints it onto wood and uses tools to carve and smooth the cooling material. “It’s just endless what you can do,” she said.
Several towns away in Dartmouth, Genevieve Hunt, an architect and metalsmith, took up watercolor painting just before the pandemic. After taking a few classes in New Bedford, Covid-19 forced her to learn from YouTube tutorials and online lessons. Now, in her first Open Studio Tour, Hunt displayed the watercolors she made over her isolation.
These were only three of many studios open for the tour. While visiting every gallery and studio on the tour is impossible, there are so many mediums and varieties of art represented that there truly is something for everyone.
Don Cadoret’s intricate and engrossing story paintings are worlds apart from Lindsay Epstein’s crystalline glazed pottery. Vidar and Betset Lamonte Haaland’s watercolor landscapes and found object sculptural scenes offer a completely different experience than Rose Esson-Dawson’s wood-fired ceramics or Kim Gatesman’s electrical printmaking.
These are some examples of what visitors can expect on August 21 and 22 when South Coast Artists open their doors to the public once again for another weekend of art and community.
(The final 2021 South Coast Artist’s Open Studio Tour Weekend will be held on Saturday, August 21 and Sunday, August 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Dartmouth and Westport, Massachusetts and Tiverton and Little Compton, Rhode Island. The event is free. For more information about the tour, including a virtual map, visit southcoastartists.org.)