Whidbey artists’ work on display this weekend

— Created August 18, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Shannon Bly

Whidbey’s working artists are opening their studios to the public this weekend, Aug. 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day for the annual Whidbey Working Artists Summer Open Studio Tour.

“[The tour] gives people a chance to be right in the artists’ work environment and see their process, how they organize their work environment, and the actual creative process of making a piece of art,” said long time organizer Kay Parsons.

There are 49 studios included in the tour, which spans the length of the island and includes a wide variety of mediums and styles. The tour provides a catalogue of the artists’ profiles and representative pieces, which can also be viewed on the website. A map of the studios is available to help participants plan their self-guided tour.

“Sharing my studio space is much more personal than just putting artwork in a show or gallery. The real benefit for both me and the viewer is the opportunity to develop these personal relationships,” said painter and photographer Kim Tinuviel, who has participated in the tour as a viewer, volunteer and artist. “I want my artwork to go to a good home and good people, and a buyer is much more invested in an art piece made by someone they have been watching and getting to know.”

“I have found that visitors come ready to talk about art and art processes, and even the plants I have on the way to my front door (when you arrive, be sure to ask me about my yellow lavender!). Guests arrive with an open mind, and I love our exchange of ideas,” Timothy Haslet, a painter participating in his third year on the tour, said of inviting viewers into his home studio.

Jill Lipoti, a potter who is participating in the tour for the first time, works out of the Whidbey Clay Center in Freeland with multiple other artists.

“By all practicing our craft in the same studio space, we influence and encourage each other,” said Lipoti. “You would never think that our work looks alike in any manner, but watching each other’s technique, learning about their glaze process, and just chatting while working brings a joyous spirit to our work.”

When the Whidbey Clay Center closed for the pandemic, Lipoti and her fellow potters took clay home with them, but the experience was isolating.

“It was sad to be working alone, but we concentrated on making bowls for the Good Cheer fundraising effort to fight hunger on the island,” she said. “It brought meaning into our pandemic lives.”

Parsons said artists are looking forward to the shared experience the tour brings.

“Artists are really looking for that connection right now, because we’ve all been so isolated,” she said.

The tour has been held annually since 2004, with some years offering two tours, but it was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. The return of the tour this year will be an opportunity for some artists to showcase the work they’ve done during the pandemic.

“[Some} people have had huge shifts in their work after the year at home due to COVID,” Parsons said.

“Many of us have had difficulty producing anything,” Haslet said. “It’s been at times draining and disorienting, but I have also been able to create some of my best work yet.”

“With the pandemic as a factor, many have had time to reflect on their lives and address things that were previously pushed to the side or buried; art has the opportunity to co-represent where we are in this journey,” said impressionistic painter Alicia Elliott.

Elliott’s art shifted for a different reason when she broke her wrist last year.

“Out of sheer desperation for an outlet to channel the many obstacles I was facing, I took to painting with my left hand,” she described. Now healed from her injuries, she paints with both hands. “My left hand seems to bring strokes that are less controlled. Since my work has gone from fairly representational to a more intuitive approach, I’m finding that each hand has something to say.” 

The artists emphasize that the tour, like art itself, is for everyone.

“Bring your children and grandchildren on the tour and ask them what they like. Help them discover what mediums they are drawn to, what kind of artistic energy they are inspired by most. Someday, your child/grandchild may even want to make art and be on the tour!” encouraged Tinuviel.

“The arts gently remind us of our humanity and partner with our imaginations for a more loving community,” said Elliott. “Bringing a piece of original art into your home introduces an energy that can be a mood changer to the space and the collector, not to mention that it sustains a healthy art community which I believe, more than ever, is essential to our lives.”

Each studio on the tour will follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and may require masks for all. The studios are small and some artists will set up outdoors.

“All the traffic and visitors will be diffused through 49 studios,” said Parsons. “In some ways, the tour might be in a better place to accommodate visitors than a big event in one building.”

“This tour for me is a celebration. We have so much to be grateful for! And yes, we’re not out of the woods, yet, but having the tour this year is a display of our resilience and celebration of life,” Haslet said. “In this season, I have often found myself proclaiming, ‘to life!'”

Find a digital version of the Studio Tour Guide and more information online at whidbeyworkingartists.com.