Autumn Birch by Dave Miess, Lac du Flambeau.
By Kathy Cutforth, Correspondent
Beginning Friday, October 7th and continuing through Sunday, October 9th, visitors will drive the backroads to visit art galleries and rarely opened home studios in Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties.
Artists at 37 locations will demonstrate their art in multiple mediums including pottery, fiber arts, sculpture, glass, photography, furniture design, painting and drawing. Studios will be open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm each day.
Not only is this a good occasion to see art, it is a good time to see the peak of Fall color in the region and visit other local attractions. It’s also a great opportunity to make personal connections, see artists at work, understand their process, and take home a unique hand-crafted memory of the experience.
First-time participant Dave Miess, photographer, enjoys that personal connection. He has displayed his work in art shows and fairs for more than 20 years, but “unlike a show with maybe 100 other artists with painters, photographers and everything else, they are taking the time to drive here and see my photography and meet the artist. … In general, they are expecting and getting more.”
Similar tours have happened each summer in July since 2000. Most artists participate in both tours, and they see a different sort of visitor on each tour: more families in the Summer, and more serious art lovers in the Fall.
According to painter and the tour’s public relations contact Ann Waisbrot, there is now more interest in a wider range of art than when the tour started.
“I’ve never had a rude guest – art lovers are the nicest people. They don’t tell you they like one artist more than another or anything like that!” she said, laughing. Because artists tend to work in solitude, “It is nice to talk to people and hear good things. … It keeps us going all year.”
It isn’t possible to see everything in a day, or even over a weekend. Ann recommends planning your tour by location or type of art, and to allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, visit the artists and watch their demonstrations.
“I’ll say more than half of all visitors participate regularly,” said jewelry maker and the tour’s membership chair Betty J. Christian.
“I’m in Rhinelander and I have many repeat customers who come from all over – Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, the Twin Cities, the U.P. – and plan for the whole weekend just to do art.”
The tour is organized by the artists themselves, who formed a cooperative where each member contributes to planning, advertising and managing the tour. Each member is vetted through an application process.
Artists who wish to participate next year need to apply by October 15th.
New member Wendy Ahnen worked as a muralist for 30 years and transitioned to painting and art quilting since moving to the Northwoods. Her husband Steve said joining “was on her bucket list.” Despite her years of experience, she said it takes guts to put your work up for sale and to stick to your price. “It’s like going out there naked – it’s scary!”
Forming contacts with fellow artists and being part of a support network is an extra benefit of membership. Casual and working relationships become friendships, opportunities for collaboration and a source of inspiration and creativity. Echoing others, Wendy said that the art tour not only expanded her sales but has also created new opportunities to teach and exhibit.
Sponsors also benefit, and not just from the additional tourist traffic that comes their way, but from the satisfaction of supporting the arts.
Three-year sponsor Dave Knapstein, owner of Woodruff Appliance & TV, said, “We try to support all the arts up here, including the Campanile Center, Lakeland Performing Arts and others. We feel that the arts are important to the community.”
Making the community better through art is why painter and long-time participant, Christine Alfery, stays on the tour. She loves making those connections and encouraging visitors to find the artist within.
According to Christine, each visitor is “a very, very unique, one-of-a-kind person, and I encourage them … through all artwork, to indulge themselves in a bit of selfishness. I tell them it is a way to nourish the soul and self, and that all artists do it, and they can too.”