Springtime in Sedona means the return of the annual Open Studios Tour. This year, the much-anticipated event has grown to include artist studios in Sedona, Cornville, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Camp Verde.
The Tour’s co-chairs, clay artist Mike Upp and painter Julie Ronning Talbot, are counting the days until Open Studios 2021 kicks off the weekend of April 23-25.
“Astounding, gratifying, and exciting,” are words that both use to describe the phenomenal growth of the 17-year-old event.
The tour is sponsored by the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition (SVAC) and usually takes place every spring and fall. The participating artists are particularly excited about the upcoming event, as both the spring and fall Tours were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
After conducting extensive research into other studio tours around the country and finding that many were able to hold successful tours last fall and earlier this year by following CDC guidelines, SVAC decided to move forward with this year’s Spring Tour.
To ensure the health and safety of artists and attendees alike, each artist/studio participating in the Tour pledges to abide by CDC guidelines for curbing the spread of COVID-19. This includes wearing a mask, maintaining at least six feet of social distancing and providing hand sanitizer for guests. Attendees will also be required to wear masks and observe social distancing practices when visiting the artists’ studios.
“First of all, the whole Open Studios concept is a big deal everywhere,” co-chair Mike Upp explains, noting that over the past eight years he’s met and talked with Open Studios organizers all over the country and they all say that the up-close-and-personal experience is what makes these tours fascinating for visitors. “It’s just a great time and place where art lovers can literally go right into the artist’s working studio and see exactly what they do and how they do it. What’s more, they can purchase something original, creative, and gorgeous directly from the artist. And why not? The Sedona Open Studios Tour is a unique experience featuring 40 different artists! Not only that, it’s also fun and a great way to enjoy a drive through the spectacular scenic countryside of the Verde Valley.”
As with many of the Open Studios longtime participating artists, both Talbot and Upp have developed a significant presence within the venue.
Upp and his artist wife, Sharon, own the Earth and Fire Ceramics Studio in Cornville and have built a base of happy customers who mark their calendars every year so they won’t miss the special weekend event.
It’s easy to see how this would make the heart of an artist swell with pride and gratitude, especially when the repeat customers are thrilled to add a ringing endorsement for their Open Studios experience.
Attendee Sue Maiden says she likes Open Studios Tour because in addition to seeing great art, she enjoys the educational opportunity of learning something new with every visit.
“We stopped by Mike and Sharon Upp’s studio in Cornville and we loved it from the minute we walked in. Everything we saw was beautiful—mugs, wine coasters, dinnerware. We bought some things and he explained all about OS and then all about how he makes pots,” said Sue. “To tell you the truth, I was pleasantly surprised because he seemed so delighted we were there and took the time to describe and explain his process, and so did Sharon. I learned so much about the process and glazing. Mike talked about how he gets his ideas, demonstrated the construction and the glazing too. All the artists are so sharing and friendly, which makes it a very special way to shop.”
That sentiment is echoed by Elizabeth Yancy, a longtime Sedona resident and avid art collector who tries to attend Open Studios every year, “just to see what’s fun and new this year.”
Catching up with one of her favorite artists makes it even better. She says she loves Julie Talbot’s watercolors and describes them in glowing terms like “amazing, refined, elegant, and vibrant.” She especially likes Talbot’s florals. “I just love beauty and in my opinion, what Julie does is the hallmark of true beauty—her paintings are just so alive,” said Elizabeth. “And really, you just don’t find that very often in flower paintings. Her ability to bring the painting to life, the variety of expression and her execution of detail is just about perfect.”
Open Studios visitors agree that the event is a way to experience the creative process through hands-on learning, with the invitation to watch a demo named as a top draw—even if it’s something as basic as exploring the variety of artist’s tools used in creating the beauty on display, including brushes, cameras, canvas, paper, paint, kilns, glass, and fibers. “There’s really no way not to be charmed, beguiled, and thrilled with something different, special, original, or custom in whatever your favorite medium is, be it glass, ceramics, pottery, sculpture, jewelry, painting, drawings, photography, fiber, weaving, mixed media, silks ... it’s all here,” Talbot and Upp cheerfully promise.
“What Open Studios is really about is providing a platform for local artists to shine, offering a one-of-a-kind experience for art lovers and helping to foster a regional community that values the arts,” said Upp. “It’s a real testament to the thriving vitality of the arts community in the Verde Valley.”
Brochures with a map, a complete list of participating artists, and other details on scheduling, locations and more will be available at businesses, hotels, and restaurants throughout the Verde Valley, as well as at the Sedona Arts Center and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in Uptown.
Information can also be found online at http://sedonaartistscoalition.org or by contacting Mike Upp at 503.789.4437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.