By David Ryan Palmer
The weekend of April 30 will bring with it an annual Benicia art tradition: Open Studios.
Organized by Arts Benicia, the event is a walkthrough of various artists’ work spaces throughout the city, especially in the Arsenal, which has long been an enclave for purveyors of creative expression.
It’s a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creative homes of painters, sculptors, photographers, glass blowers and others who are among the premier talents in the Bay Area art community.
Let’s get metallurgical
Inferno Artworks is the passion of husband and wife team Angela Fortain and Stephen Stark. Their studio is located inside their 396 East H St. home, which they’ll be opening up for weekend visitors as part of Open Studios.
Both are metalworkers, creating anything from large metal art pieces to small bits of jewelry to refrigerator magnets. They also restore antique metalwork.
Stark and Fortain said that they’ve been a part of Open Studios for about a decade, though in the beginning they didn’t have an actual studio space.
“It was hysterical. People would come in and look at all of our tchotchkes on our shelves and say ‘That’s amazing!’” Stark said.
Both Stark and Fortain work out of their home, which has a large studio in the back with windows that let in a lot of natural light.
They also do blown glass, which they’ll have on display during Open Studios.
Fortain and Stark will be selling all kinds of work — including a $6,000 cast bronze bodice, though Fortain said they have a buyer already interested in the piece.
“We are going to have lots of other things, including some small, $8 magnet pieces, though,” Stark said.
Artistic architectural glass
Arthur Stern has also been a part of Open Studios for a long time — more than 15 years, by his calculation. He works in abstract glass designs, but he also creates smaller pieces and dabbles in painting and sculpture.
“I do a lot of public art, but I also do some residential things,” Stern said.
Those residential offerings include a $20,000 room divider screen. Costly? Stern said his work is priced according to the materials and the amount of time it takes to create them.
“I don’t expect any real high-rollers (to attend Open Studios), but hey, you never know,” he said. His smaller work — “mini-Sterns,” as he calls them — are more affordable and easier to move, to boot.
He also paints and creates sculpture, which has a bit more free form in the creation process.
“For the art glass, you have to plan everything out well in advance,” he said.
“It’s nice to do things that are more spontaneous.”
His studio, located at 1075 Jackson St., will be open for the public to meander through — “Everything but the places where I live,” Stern said. “Don’t want them hanging out in my bedroom, of course.”
Art lovers looking to pick up a piece of Stern’s work can get one starting at $150. He is happy that people will want to come and see his work.
“Anytime you can get a lot of people to see your work, it’s a good thing,” he said.
Still, it’s a business.
“Sometimes, I wish I could get a quarter for every time someone comes in and says, ‘Oh, that’s very nice,’ and then leaves without buying.”
If You Go
Arts Benicia’s Open Studios event begins Saturday, April 30, and ends Sunday, May 1. A map of all the studios participating can be found at ArtsBenicia.org.