NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 8, 2012

Afternoon for the arts

Open Studio Tour draws bigger, younger crowds

By Katie Lovett Features Editor
Newburyport Daily News

---- — For several years, Jensi Rogers has been watching the crowds come through her doors of the Amesbury Open Studio Tour.

And Rogers, who owns Crafters Quarters at 428 Main St. with ceramics artist Marc Lisle, has noticed two big changes.

“More people are coming from farther away, we’ve got a much bigger reach,” Lisle said. The tour, which is sponsored each year by the Amesbury Cultural Council, is also drawing more younger faces, she added.

During the tour, set for Saturday and Sunday, artists in 13 studio spaces and galleries around the city will open their doors to the public. Artists will be on hand to answer questions, talk about their pieces and explain more about their mediums and crafts. Various musicians will also perform.

The annual tour begins at the Amesbury Cultural Center in the Upper Millyard. Participants can pick up a map of the tour stops and a schedule of events at the center, which will also have activities throughout the day, including raffles and a cookie-decorating table for children.

A textile artist with a focus on quilting, Rogers was introduced to art during her childhood. Her mother is a fine arts professor at a university. Drawn to work with fabric due to its versatility, she said she enjoys the challenges that come with the craft. When working with fabric, you can’t scrape it off and start again when a project goes off course, she said.

“You have to work within it,” she said.

Rogers said her studio seems to be getting the attention of young adults, who are becoming more interested in crafts with the emerging “maker movement” that promotes a “do-it-yourself” attitude. With the creation of websites like Etsy and Pinterest, where artists of all levels display their handmade projects, and television shows like “Project Runway,” a fashion show where contestants compete to create the best clothes, more people are becoming inclined to pursue their creative sides, she said.

“People just don’t see it as their grandmother’s activity anymore,” Rogers said. A show featuring pieces by students at Crafters Quarters will hang this weekend.

The studio tour is a great way for newcomers to learn more about Amesbury’s numerous galleries and studios and to get exposure to an art form they may want to take classes in or learn more about, expressionist artist Edith Heyck said.

Since moving her studio to Amesbury five years ago, Heyck says she has seen the city’s profile grow.

“There exists a cultural vitality in Amesbury,” she said. “This cultural component is really beginning to define the city.”

Cultural Council member Mary Hichborn said the weekend typically draws hundreds of visitors into the studio spaces. About 75 artists and musicians are taking part this year, she added. The tour is held in November to coincide with the start of the holiday shopping season.

“It should be a great weekend,” she said.

Hichborn said the event’s growing popularity is helped by social media sites as volunteers use them to reach a broader audience. “Facebook has been so helpful; that’s how people communicate now,” she said.

As the tour celebrates its 16th year, council members are looking at other ways to continue to add to the program in the future, Hichborn said, and exploring possible initiatives, such as giving tour-goers a “passport” to get stamped by each studio or gallery they visit.

IF YOU GO

What: Amesbury Open Studio Tour

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Various studios throughout the city. Maps and schedules are available at the Amesbury Cultural Center, 36 High St., or online at www.AmesburyStudioTour.com.