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Contact: Martha Fitch, Director
Vermont Crafts Council

In honor of our 25th year celebrating the life of the artist.

In 2017, Spring Open Studio Weekend is comprised of a network of 181 visual arts sites located all across Vermont that are open to the public for the weekend. Twenty-four are galleries, educational organizations, or community arts organizations. One hundred and fifty-seven are artist's studios. Visitors can use our map booklet to create their own self guided tour depending on their interests.

We are heading into our 25th event taking place May 27 & 28 from 10:00 to 5:00. A fair questions is "Why do we do it?" Of course we hope that studio visits will result in immediate sales and orders for the participants but we also expect them to result in communication and changed points of view that can sustain the arts community in the future.

By inviting the public into the workspace of artists, an immediate wordless education takes place about the investment that artists make in the materials, tools and space needed to execute their work. Visitors develop a deeper appreciation for the visual arts profession by being able to ask questions and view a skilled demonstration of techniques. They gain insight into the "life of an artist" by visiting studios, often located on the artist's property, allowing the visitor to see where and how artists create their work. Many artists live in a creative environment or put another way, many artists bring their creativity into their studios and homes. To be an artist means that you are also a visual problem solver with a sense of design.

Wood turner Russ Fellows built his home during one of our country's energy crises and incorporated a sod roof. It was delightful to see the roof's tall grass and wildflowers stirring in the wind. Visiting potter Irene LaCroix was equally enchanting. Her studio is set off from the house in a stone shed structure. She had several large white, burnished clay sculptures on hand. We learned that photos of her work had been used without her consent by a local business, resulting in a long and interesting conversation about art and copyrights. Harry and Wendy Besett's studio features a collage of rural life in Vermont including two trophy deer heads, maple syrup labels, tools, a Bread and Puppet poster and their blown glass.

Fewer people now seek a profession where they work with their hands and this leads to a populace with reduced understanding about how useful objects come to be. Weaver Deborah Stresing of Joes Pond Craft Shop, sets up her loom during Open Studio. She reports that a surprising number of people have never seen a loom. A common question reported by artists who sell their work at festivals and shows: "Where did you buy these?" Studio visits educate the public and this is good for both parties as they debunk stereotypes.

Artist's stereotypes are contradictory. Only those "born with" talent can become artists. Another stereotype - that art requires little skill. "My grand daughter can make art like that." When a visitor enters a glassblowing studio, it becomes immediately clear that an investment in materials, equipment, and specialized training has been made.

The economic impact of the visual arts on Vermont's economy is not small. According to a 2015 study undertaken by an economist working for the State of Vermont, the overall portion of Vermont's economy contributed by the visual arts community is 200 million.

"Summing the results from artist sales, gallery sales, education and related businesses amounts to more than $200 million in income represented by the visual arts. That figure represents about 1.5% of the state income total. Many economic impact studies report the "induced" economic impacts of a particular sector. In this case, about 1.5% of all services and most retail sales are purchased by those with visual arts income. One and a half percent of restaurant sales, insurance payments, real estate transactions, and travel services would not happen in the absence of the income from visual arts businesses.

The $200 million compares to a somewhat smaller value for the total of ski area ticket sales (about $180 million in 2013). $200 million is almost one half of the amount spent in Vermont lodging accommodations. And, while this analysis did not do a geographic distribution of arts income, a review of the distribution of artists and galleries provides evidence that arts economic activity is very distributed across the state and not concentrated in the larger cities and towns of the state." Economic Impacts of Visual Arts Activities in Vermont Ken Jones, Ph.D. Economic Research Analyst, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development - September, 2015.

There is a strong correlation between studio visits and purchases. According to past visitor surveys, 95% of visitors who responded, said they were more likely to buy hand made artwork after having visited a working studio. Being able to understand the difference between a mass produced mug made in China and a hand thrown mug deepens appreciation for the value of hand made work, contributes to the local economy, and connects us to our not so distant past where most tools and household items were made by hand.

Visitors can pick up a map booklet for the weekend at any participating studio or gallery, at tourist information centers on interstates 89 and 91, online at our website or by calling the office.

Check back for additional special events related to our 25th year.