It could have very easily turned into a really great party, – the weather, the people and the talent made it that kind of event.

By Pepper Parr and Pia Simms.

BURLINGTON, ON  November 7, 2011  – The only thing wrong the weekend of the 5th and 6th was that there was barely enough time to take in both the Burlington Art Centre Wearable Arts Sale and the 9th Annual Art in Action studio tour that saw eight different studios around the city opened on two days for visitors.  If you hustled around you could just make all nine locations.  We hustled.

Each studio had three to four different artists displaying their work.  Most had a mix of mediums except for a residence on Ross Street where Dan Jones, Glen Jones and Fred Oliver displayed their photographs.  We made our rounds on the Saturday and by mid-afternoon this Studio had logged more than two hundred visits.

The Studio Teresa Seaton set up shop in had very close to 500 people pass through. "We worked like dogs to make this event happen said Seaton, one of four people that bring Art in Action to Burlington annually.

While the art work at each studio was different so was the atmosphere.  One studio in Hidden Valley had what amounted to almost a tour guide at the door to greet each visitor and explain what each artist was doing and where they were located on the property which, in this instance, amounted to the house and then a small dwelling in the back yard that served as a studio and a display room.  You could hear the sounds of the small but robust stream in the background and at the same time be very aware that you were in the bottom of a small valley with slopes rising, quite steeply on one side and less so on the other.

Perhaps it was the locale or maybe it was the people but the Hidden Valley Studio was the kind of place that had we had two bottles of wine in the car we would have stayed and become part of the party.  We had just the one studio left on our tour – and were very glad that we pressed on.  At the studio on

Cheryl Laakes stands proudly before a piece of jewelry she had on display. Her fabric work was particularly good as well.

Lemmonville Road we came across George Wilkinson a wood turner who has worked with wood all his life; met with a former Sheridan College Dean of Arts and Cheryl Laake, a lovely fabric artist who turned demurely away from the camera before we took our pictures, to “make sure the girls were all right” as she adjusted her sweater and blouse.

One of the things that happens on these tours is you bump into people whose path you crossed somewhere else along the way and with some you strike up friendships.  We watched a young woman of about 25 purchase a painting from an artist and when the artist asked what it was she liked about his work her answer kind of stunned him.   He just didn’t see what she saw in the work – which is the magic of the visual arts – the beauty and life is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

We listened to Nebojsa Jovanovic explain his work to a woman who wanted him to do a private commission with the finished work to be a very specific dimension.  The artist had that look in his eye that left you wondering – was the client buying something to fill some space on a wall or was she buying art that appealed to her.  Whichever, the sale was made.

An artist at one studio looked up in surprise to see a former student walk into the house with her very young daughter in tow.  The pleasure shared by all – perhaps not the daughter, she kept glancing cautiously at the artist.

This work was a favourite, while according to the artist, it is not yet complete, I liked the rabbit just as he was with his grumpy look.

Teresa Seaton, co-chair of the Art in Action event and a stained glass artist, explained that the group had learned to keep the number of studios down to less than ten – which allowed people to get to every studio.  It was difficult to know what you wanted to take in from the brochure – there was nothing wrong with the document – but you had to be in the houses to get a sense of the artist and both hear and feel the passion they have for their work.

The thinking behind the creation and development of the Art in Action Studio Tour is to bring close to 50% new talent each year so that the public gets to see fresh talent and artists get a good run and then can take some time out to refresh their offerings.

I have been to a number of Art Studio Tours; the one in the Toronto Beach community is touted as being on of the best there is in the GTA – the talent in Burlington was every bit as good and in many cases much better than the work on display in the Beach in Toronto..

The only noticeable difference was that there was more jewelry on display in Burlington, which one artist suggested was a bit of a fad.

Geore Wilkinson's wife shows some of his work while he stayed in the garage turning his lathe.

A number of artists worked in more than one medium.  Some was more craft than art and while many might describe the wood that George Wilkinson turns on his lathe as “craft” it made no difference to George what you called it.  But as you watched his hands handle the tools he used and looked at his fingers as he ran them over the curve of a piece of wood – you knew you were watching an artist.

Except for the one Studio all were in private homes and while each had to get creative to make the space work – one had black plastic garbage bags over windows to keep the sunlight out, the homes were by far the nicest spots to look at the art work and talk with the artists.  The commercial location in the Village Square left one feeling you were just in another store.

Artist Nebojsa Jovanovic explains his approach to his art to an interested client.. She bought.

Most places had coffee or cider and cookies.  Some went the full, really nice cheese and crackers route, and at one that we won’t forget had wine for their individual appreciation – and they shared.  The Art in Action people deserve great credit for the excellent signage.  Visitors were driving to private homes in residential neighbourhoods, to streets they may never have heard of never mind been to before, saw good signs at each intersection pointing the way.  The signage was better than it is in elections.

One artist, Peter Schlotthauer, worked with metal and was negotiating a bench the client wanted to have made as a memorial.  While he wasn’t able to give an “exact” price,  the $800. he mentioned was a darn sight better than the $2,000. the city wants, to put up a memorial bench in one of the parks.

Don Graves talks about a piece of art bought by a patron.

The Art in Action people had near perfect weather for both days, always a bit chancy when you hold your event in early November. “We had absolutely glorious weather” said Teresa Seaton “and the traffic was very good. We got very close to 500 people at our studio”.

We spent the best part of a day touring the eight studios and had the time of our lives.  Saw parts of the city we’d not seen before, met some people we hope to meet again, saw and appreciated some art that we would like to acquire for our own collection.  Yes, we did see some art that had us both totally bamboozled – we had no idea what the artist was trying to say.  It didn’t matter.

Next year will be the 10th annual Art in Action studio tour.  We hope the committee that makes this event happen doesn’t decide to do something that is over the top to celebrate ten years of success.  The eight studios were just fine – mix up the artists a bit and always bring in fresh talent.  But don’t try to make it something it isn’t.  A little less jewelry perhaps but my co-writer probably doesn’t agree with me – she is into jewelry.

It’s an event you want to mark down in your calendar – first weekend in November.

One added benefit – we didn’t see one, not a single politician of any political stripe in our tour.

We managed to spend an hour at the Wearable Art Show at the Burlington Art Centre.  There was lots of traffic when we were there and it was a good spot to have a sandwich and a sit down – and the parking was free.

 

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