By Keri Luiz
Seventy artists will open their studio doors to the public this weekend for Arts Benicia’s annual Open Studios.
That’s a whole lot of artistic insight.
Because hitting 70 studios in two days would be daunting to even the most determined art enthusiast, Arts Benicia has a strategy for visitors to get the most out of the weekend.
Visitors are advised to begin by visiting Arts Benicia in the Arsenal, where they will see displayed some artwork from galleries participating in Open Studios.
Once they’ve had a chance to see what art they like, they’ll have an idea of the studios they want to visit, Arts Benicia Director Larnie Fox said.
“There’s a map number on each label which corresponds to a number on the map. So you can stop at Arts Benicia, plan your itinerary, and go off to visit the studios,” Fox said.
While most of the studios are concentrated in the Arsenal on Tyler, Jackson and Grant streets, several others are scattered throughout the city. Many galleries and studios in the downtown area are participating in Open Studios, too. Two of the farthest-flung studios belong to Brad Adams, in the Industrial Park, and Doug Simon, on West K Street.
“It’s definitely worth the drive to visit an artist on the periphery,” Fox said. “Doug Simon is a great example of that. Brad Adams has his wood turning up in the Industrial Park. He’s definitely worth the drive.
“And the glass studios are definitely worth the trip. A little driving will pay off.”
Arts Benicia’s gallery will stay busy with demos and other activities, starting with a printmaking class and demonstration Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a painting demonstration by artist Craig Britton from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On Sunday, activities at Arts Benicia will take on a family hue, with an art exploration activity planned for kids.
“The art exploration is a chance for kids to wander the gallery and look for clues in the artwork,” Fox said. “If they find things that are interesting, they can go see the artists in their studios.”
Also Sunday, the gallery’s Mosaic Project will come to a conclusion.
Artists and others from around the city donated 7-inch-by-7-inch ceramic tiles for an Arts Benicia raffle, which will be held at 4 p.m.
“People can buy raffle tickets until we run out, or until 4 o’clock Sunday,” Fox said.
“Then we start pulling them off the wall and handing them out to the people. Everybody that buys one for $25 will get one, they just don’t know which one they’re going to get.”
Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at the gallery when it is open, by calling 707-747-0131, or by visiting www.artsbenicia.org.
If the tickets don’t sell out by 5 p.m. Sunday, individual tiles will be available for purchase, Fox said; for $45 the buyer will have a choice of the tiles available.
Downtown’s Gallery 621 did a tile project of their own, currently hanging on the wall at Arts Benicia. “They are selling their tiles for $100 each, and you get to pick which one you want. All the proceeds go to Arts Benicia,” Fox said.
“We’re really grateful to Gallery 621 for supporting their local art center.”
Benicia photographer Michael Van Auken has a project in mind to cap the Open Studios weekend. He plans to take a group portrait of all the prominent artists “I’ve been doing a project photographing the artists here in the art community,” he said.
Van Auken had seen some of the historic photos of the Arsenal, and of Benicia. He said he is planning to photograph the group scene at the end of the 991 Tyler building, which has multiple levels.
“It’s a prime place to do a large group photo because of the levels that it has,” he said.
Van Auken plans to shoot the picture around 7:30 p.m. to take advantage of the ideal light.
He hopes his photo becomes a key part of the city’s historical record.
“I’m thinking 50 years from now someone will be looking at that photo and thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s where that whole artist thing started,’” he said. “It will be a kind of historic thing to do, a cast of characters.”
Fox said Open Studios one of the best times of year to invite people to Benicia.
“You get to roam around and meet all kind of interesting people, see all sorts of interesting stuff all day, and go down to First Street for dinner, or have a barbecue,” he said.
“It’s the best weekend of the year to do it. Everyone’s really excited about it.”
If You Go
Open Studios is this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at locations across town. Visit Arts Benicia at 991 Tyler St., #114, to pick up a map for the studio locations. And look for the “Open Studios” signs throughout town.