B y Derek Liebig
Vermont’s Open Studio Weekend combines two of Marion Waldo McChesney’s favorite things: Art and people.
In the past 21 years, McChesney, a ceramic artist and longtime resident of Pawlet, Vt., has missed the event only once and that was to attend her stepfather’s 80th birthday.
“It’s a lot of fun. People drive around the state and go to people’s studios,” said McChesney, owner of The Pawlet Potter. “It’s been a wonderful experience. I love sharing what I do. Sure, it’s nice to sell things, but I like people and sharing with them what I do. I love my medium and there’s no place I’d rather be than in my studio.”
McChesney is one of more than 240 artists and craftspeople who will participate in the Vermont Crafts Council’s 21st annual Open Studio Weekend on May 25 and 26.
This statewide celebration of the visual arts and creative process of Vermont’s artists is a unique opportunity for visitors to meet a variety of artists and craftspeople in their studios, some of which are open only this weekend.
The Vermont Crafts Council launched the event in 1993 to increase the visibility of the state’s artists and foster an appreciation for the creative process and the role artists play in the vitality of their respective communities.
Over the last two decades the event has continued to grow and each year new artists join the tour for the first time.
“The first few years people would stop by and I’d ask them, ‘Are you here for Open Studio Weekend?’ and they had no idea. It took easily three years before people had a clue, but it’s really caught on,” said McChesney, who is one four artists who will be honored by the Vermont Crafts Council for 20 years of participation in the event.
“I really believe in it (Open Studio Weekend). I think Vermont is the only state in the country that can pull this off. The event brings lots of people into the state. I find people who come up every year and pick a different part of the state or focus on a different medium.”
The self-guided tour features the work of glassblowers, jewelers, printmakers, potters, furniture makers, weavers, ironworkers, painters, sculptors, quilt makers and wood carvers. Many galleries will host discussions and feature special exhibits in conjunction with the weekend.
“That’s what is so wonderful. There are so many artists tucked away on back roads or at the end of long driveways that people don’t know about,” said Lucinda Sayre, a painter from Fair Haven, who has participated in the event on and off for years.
Like McChesney, Sayre says the event, more than anything, is an opportunity to meet people.
“I very much enjoy meeting the people that come through my door,” she said. “You meet some very fun people.”
Stacie Mincher, a Bomoseen-based artist who re-purposes clothing zippers and makes them into jewelry is participating in the event for the first time.
“There’s been lots of buzz and I’ve been very curious. It was always something I’ve wanted to get involved with,” Mincher said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for visitors to see the studios where we work and learn more about the artists’ creative process. You get to see all the different steps and what goes into each piece we make.”
“It really opens people’s minds and makes them realize what goes into making a particular piece, so there’s an educational component,” McChesney said.
Throughout the weekend, bright yellow signs will appear along Vermont’s scenic byways, guiding visitors to the studios of participating craftspeople and fine artists.
Locally, studios in Castleton, Poultney, Fair Haven, Pawlet and Middletown Springs will be open.
They include: Karen Deets Stained Glass, 728 Moscow Road, Fair Haven; Lucinda Sayre, 3095 Scotch Hill Road; Pizzazz Pottery, 647 Route 4A East, Fair Haven; Stacie Mincher Designs (will be at Pizzazz Poettery); Farrow Gallery and Studio, 853 Main Street, Castleton; Otherweis Limited, 32 Hickory Lane, Castleton; Rising Meadow Pottery, 40 West Street, Middletown Springs; Peter Huntoon, 17 Studio Lane, Middletown Springs; Lynn Pratt Watercolors, 4628 Route 30, Pawlet; The Pawlet Potter, 746 Lilly Hill Road; and Roz Compain Sculpture, Forrest Farm Road, Pawlet.
The Vermont Crafts Council publishes a free map booklet with directions to participating sites and regional information centers will be located at the Brandon Artists Guild and the Chaffee Art Center. Most studios will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additional information, including directions and a full list of participating artists, can be found at www.vermontcrafts.com or by calling the Vermont Crafts Council at 802-223-3380.