When the children trickled into her art studio at The Brickhouse Gallery & Art Complex last year, Deborah Pittman had a surprise in store: they would be coloring ceramics with smoke ball fireworks.
For that one weekend, the ceramicist’s studio was open not just to children but to anyone visiting the Oak Park neighborhood, as part of the Sac Open Studios tour.
The long-running showcase returns this month for two weekends, September 8-9 and 15-16, with the works of nearly 250 artists featured at about 75 studios throughout Sacramento, West Sacramento and Yolo County from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Art enthusiasts are invited to explore the creative spaces of the area’s most notable contemporary artists for free.
“One of the exciting things about the event is that it is for the everyday person,” Pittman said. “You don’t have to be a collector, you don’t have to buy anything, just come out and see what we’re doing, show an interest, and come out again. ... Everything is electronic nowadays, and this is like good, old-fashioned, dirty, hands-on art.”
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The Center of Contemporary Art Sacramento established the Sac Open Studios tour in 2006, merging with Verge Center of the Arts in 2014. Liv Moe, Verge’s founding director, said she’s impressed by the size of the event’s 13th year, which has added about 80 more artists and expanded to include West Sacramento and Yolo counties.
The open studio experience is unique because people are able to venture into an artist’s workspace and get a sneak peak of their process, Moe said. They can enjoy artwork as well as the objects these artists own and how they derive their inspiration.
And these studios exist in a variety of spaces, from converted garages to established galleries to warehouses, with artists who paint, weld, sculpt or used visual/mixed media and found objects, and more.
“To me, it’s another reminder that there’s far more artists working in this region than any of us are aware of,” Moe added. “You also realize there’s artists all around you.”
Pittman, a lover of lifelong learning as well as professor emeritus at Sacramento State, tends to include educational opportunities at her studio, along with displaying her artwork, Raku-fired pottery. She’s looking forward to featuring her pierced pots, with a few porcelain and smooth black clay pieces in a breathtaking juxtaposition, “like someone is seeing a negative of the piece.”
Her works will be featured during the second weekend, while Xico González, a teacher at The Met Sacramento High School, will join Sac Open Studios for the first time this year, opening his studio for the first weekend.
González has been an artist for 20 years, and is known for including evocative political themes in his printmaking and mixed media pieces, which will be on display at his studio at 2000 Willow Ave., West Sacramento.
One such piece will include multiple banners of important historical figures such as Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis and Malcolm X that viewers interact with through augmented reality.
More than anything, González said, he wants to create community, as an artist and with this event.
“I’m hoping that the folks from West Sacramento come down and see the work I’m doing and (will) hopefully be inspired by it,” he said. “I just want to give a voice to the voiceless. I want to put shame on the people in power that are oppressing people.”
Moe’s vision for Sac Open Studios is that it continues to expand and “draw attention and spotlight” to the massive community of artists in the region. The nonprofit estimates that more than 10,000 people will make it out to the event over the course of the two weekends, based on the attendance of previous years.
“When I’m in some of the conversations about the city’s cultural plan and how Sacramento’s coming to define itself as an arts city, it runs in contradiction to what I hear from artists--they’re having a hard time selling their work, studios are having a hard time staying open,” Moe said.
“That’s the piece we have to bridge. If we value this and if it’s one of those things that’s part of our identity ... one of those things we need to do is encourage people to get out there and support artists and enjoy their work.”
Celebrate the return of Sac Open Studios at this year’s launch party, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 6 at Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S St., Sacramento.
Enjoy live art and music, children’s activities, food and drink and a chance to mingle with local artists.
Verge Center for the Art’s fall exhibition, “KOKO’s Love: The Technicolor Unfairy Tale Ball” by Yoshie Sakai opens then, as well, and runs through Oct. 28.
Five to see, each weekend
Here are the artists you shouldn’t miss during the first weekend, Sept. 8-9, which primarily features studios west of Highway 99/Interstate 80:
- Franceska Gamez, murals: Tin Can Studios, 1810 Gallery, 215 14th St., Sacramento. franceskagamez.com
- Gale Hart, sculpture: 2114 19th St., Sacramento, galehart.com
- Jose di Gregorio, murals: Warehouse Artists Lofts, 1108 R St., #606, Sacramento. josedigregorio.com
- Shaun Burner, painting: Tin Can Studios, 1810 Gallery, 215 14th St., Sacramento. shaunburner.com
- Sunya Whitelight, interdisciplinary: Maker’s Annex, 530 Q St., Sacramento. sunyawhitelight.com
Here are the artists you shouldn’t miss during the second weekend, which primarily features studios east of Highway 99/Interstate 80:
Juliet Haas, photography: Haas Studio, 6537 Outlook Drive, Citrus Heights. https://www.juliethaas.studio
Kate Farrall, photography: 2855 58th St., Sacramento. katefarrall.com
Patricia Mills, mixed media: Studio Tupos, 10149 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Fair Oaks. https://www.studiotupos.gallery
Patris, painting: Patris Studio and Art Gallery, 3460 Second Ave., Sacramento, artist-patris.com
Michael Sirota, ceramics: Allied Ceramic Art Institute, 7425 Winding Way, Fair Oaks. acaistudios.com
Pick up the 2018 Sac Open Studios Guide guide at 500 locations across Sacramento County, including Verge Center for the Arts, Blick Art Materials and University Art, or download a copy at vergeart.com/open-studios/tour-guide