NW Art Beat Studio Tour: Skagit Artists Together expand their vision

Skagit Artists

1500 E. College Way, Suite A PMB 550

Mount Vernon

Behind every work of art, there’s a tale waiting to be told.

For ceramic sculptor Maria Wickwire, part of the joy of the artistic process is never knowing precisely what shape that narrative will take.

“Having always been attracted to figure sculpture and to story, I guess it was a natural progression to finding the deep vein of feminine archetypes I’ve been exploring since then,” Wickwire says of the alluring forms she’s been creating since falling for the malleable medium in her mid-40s. “I love how clay actually transforms during the firing, shrinking and moving, melting and glowing, until the figure can nevermore be the undefined lump of clay she once was.”

As one of 27 artists who will be showing their work at 19 Skagit County spaces July 15-16 during the NW Art Beat Open Studio Tour—formerly called the Skagit Artists Together Studio Tour—Wickwire is eager to share these insights, and more, with visitors dropping by her Mount Vernon-based space over the course of the weekend.

And as the chair of the 14th annual self-guided tour through the picturesque reaches of Skagit County—including in and around Alger, Bow, Burlington, Conway, La Conner, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley—Wickwire also wants to be sure to inform those making their way to the area that, in addition to the name change, a few other aspects of the event have morphed since the first tour in 2004.

First off, patrons who are accustomed to receiving a handy-dandy guide to the tour in their mailbox prior to the big event should know they’re not being ignored. Organizers chose not to do a mass mailing this year, and, instead, informative brochures can be found at local businesses from Everett to Lynden (and many points in between). They can also be procured at each tour stop, and the interactive, cell-phone-friendly map found on their website will make it a cinch to plan a daylong art-based adventure either before you leave the house, or on the fly.

Additionally, the summer of 2017 marks the first year the tour was opened to applicants outside Skagit County. Artists who were juried in from Snohomish, Island, Whatcom, and San Juan counties will share digs with Skagit artists, meaning some stops will feature more bang for the buck (figuratively, of course, as attending the tour is always free).

“This year, too, we are mentoring several Skagit Valley College students who want to pursue a career in the arts,” Wickwire adds. “They have the opportunity to share up to three of their own works and to see what it’s like to meet art-lovers. One of these talented artists will be the greeter at my studio on the tour. Check out studios 3, 10, 12, 13, and 16 for more art by our interns.”

A partnership with Voices of the Children adds another visually enticing layer to the festivities. Called “Peace In, Peace Out,” the mural project’s eye-catching results can be seen on some of the classic barns along the NW Art Beat route. (Details can be found on the website).

Finally, attendees are encouraged to have someone at each studio they visit initial the last page of their brochure—a space where they can also let organizers know where they’re visiting from, and how they learned about the tour. At the final studio visited, visitors should tear out that page and leave it with the artist at hand. Doing so will enter you into a drawing for one of the pieces of original art donated by this year’s participants, so it’s worth your while.

Among the changes and additions, a few important aspects of the visually enticing event will stay the same. The tour is still presented by Skagit Artists Together—the nonprofit with a mission to promote the visual arts by developing economic and networking opportunities in Skagit County opted for a fresh name that better emphasizes the vibrant arts community in the area—and the dizzying array of art still covers a wealth of creativity.

In addition to oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, day-trippers will find pastels, collage, jewelry, ceramic art, woodwork, glass art, functional art, fiber art, 2D and 3D collage and photography, transfer photography, sculptures, mixed-media pieces and more.

Per usual, one of the biggest benefits of perusing the goods in the working studios will be getting behind-the-scenes looks at the creative process, and finding out the many ways different artists approach it. While you’re there, you can also ask what drives so many creative people to live, work and create in the scenic Skagit Valley.

“I think artists create from somewhere deep inside themselves, and it takes many of us time and life experience to find our individual ways to channel that creative urge into a mature body of work,” Wickwire says. “While many artists are native to Skagit County, many others eventually find their way to this place that soothes the soul and inspires with its natural beauty. There are an infinite number of ways to experience Skagit Valley, and as many ways to express that vision through art.”

WHAT: 14th annual NW Art Beat Open Studio Tour
WHEN: 10am-6pm Sat.-Sun., July 15-16
WHERE: Throughout Skagit County
COST: Entry is free

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