Hidden from the public’s eye, artists across Flagstaff toil away at their craft as they pour their hearts into paintings, pottery and photography. While art collectors tend to see only the finished version of projects, there are often many failed experiments, unfixable mistakes and countless other frustrations behind each creation’s final iteration.
Now in its 21st year, Flagstaff Open Studios, organized through the Artists’ Coalition of Flagstaff, pulls back the veil to reveal all the hard work that goes into being an artist.
“This is the chance for the public to visit artists in their personal environment and witness the act of creation up close by the finest Flagstaff artists,” says executive director Mike Frankel.
More than 45 artists will be on hand at 21 studios across the Flagstaff area to share their creative process. Participants can use this self-guided tour to explore one specific location or venture out to Doney Park and even as far as Bellemont where wood, stone and glass artist Cal Calvin will give tours of his 100-year-old pioneer home art studio and offer a free piece of formed glass to all visitors. Artistic techniques run the gamut from beadwork and leather to fiber art and woodworking, ensuring there’s something of interest to everyone.
“I have participated in nearly all Flagstaff Open Studios over the years, and the enthusiasm and engagement that the public experiences at my studio never ceases to amaze me,” says ACF board president and multimedia artist Nancy DeBlois. “I am visiting the studios this year and look forward to seeing the other side of the equation and witnessing my fellow artists at work in their natural environments.”
Some studios may be as simple as a separate room set aside in the home to contain inspiration, while others include 2,000-degree Fahrenheit ovens full of molten glass such as George Averbeck’s glass blowing studio downtown. While many of the artists have been a part of the community for years, others are making their debut at this event as emerging artists and all of them offer something unique to add to the tour.
This year’s emerging artists include Amy Gabriel, who incorporates spray paint and gold flakes into her whimsical acrylic paintings; Shannon Heffern, who creates encaustic paintings, a technique which blends hot wax with pigments to create a 3D image on a wood surface; and abstract landscape painter Jeanne Welnick.
“Everyone will once again be dazzled at the diversity and talent of all the participants’ work,” says Frankel.
“I have so many new works and techniques to share with the visitors this year, including a new series of small paintings and collages that will be just the perfect size for people that think they have run out of room for art in their living space,” says Dolores Ziegler who, at 87, is the Coalition’s oldest member and “is still so active that it would make your head spin,” as Frankel says.
By taking this glimpse into the artists’ studios, visitors can leave with the knowledge that anyone is capable of creating something beautiful. There are no super powers involved, just plenty of hard work and dedication, and fancy art supplies aren’t always necessary. For example, Mike Russell uses his iPhone to capture the classic scenes of northern Arizona such as the train chugging through downtown Flagstaff and then enhances them with various applications.
The word “artist” takes on more than one definition for those who create.
“It is fluid and always changing,” says astrophotographer Abe Snider. “As an artist, you must always be open to new possibilities and opportunities and can't get too comfortable with one practice or skill set.”
Marsha Owen says she is always thinking about art even when she’s not sitting down with her watercolors, and that being an artist is a “world all to itself.”
“Paintings can be what I'm so proud of and then so disappointed in,” she says. “It's about working hard, problem-solving and trying to improve every day with the hope your art brings beauty to someone else.”
Brochures for the 21st annual Flagstaff Open Studios are available at the Artists’ Coalition of Flagstaff inside the Flagstaff Mall as well as the Flagstaff Visitors Center, 1 E. Route 66. They include a full list of the participating artists and a map of the studios. Find more information at www.flagstaff-arts.org.