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We're all about art 

The annual Open Studios Art Tour is a program of ARTS Obispo, the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council. This self-guided tour of studios and galleries has traditionally taken place during two weekends in October, and was expanded in 2008 to include a third, countywide weekend featuring more than 280 artists from all over SLO County. Now in its 11th year, the event continues to increase public awareness of the quality and diversity of art produced in San Luis Obispo County. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to see and purchase a diverse range of original work by local artists and to discover how, why, and where this art is created. The event is not only a showcase for artists and a feast for collectors, but ARTS Obispo’s largest annual fundraiser.

ARTS Obispo relies on the Open Studios Art Tour for roughly 20 percent of its current annual operating budget. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts advocacy organization, ARTS Obispo’s mission is to advance the arts throughout San Luis Obispo County by increasing public access to the arts, creating opportunities for artists, and supporting arts education in our local schools. Without the revenue from the Open Studios Art Tour, we would be unable to offer arts enrichment to the community through such programs as Arts in Education, Art After Dark, Art in Public Places, the Ingrid Reti Literary Grant, and ARTS Space Obispo, among others. Recouping the costs of catalog printing is a very small part of a much bigger picture.

We want to address concerns that Jeff Claassen expressed in his New Times commentary (“All aboard the art train,” March 19) about the price for the Open Studios Art Tour as it compares to other Open Studios’ Tours statewide and to other local art fairs and festivals. The participation fee for artists in the 2009 Open Studios Art Tour is $130, as it was in 2008. Although rising printing costs, among other factors, have caused increases over the years, the $130 fee compares very favorably to that of other Open Studios Tours statewide. For example, to participate in the Santa Cruz Open Studios Tour, a similar tour featuring 300 artists over three weekends, artists pay $255, nearly double that of ARTS Obispo’s Tour. The Santa Barbara Art Tour costs $200 for merely 40 artists over a single weekend. East Bay Open Studios Tour charges its 400-plus participating artists between $140 and $170 for two weekends. All produce beautiful catalogs and maps to help guide visitors around the county and as a reference for contacting artists.

Also consider other local venues for artists to showcase and sell their work: art fairs and festivals countywide. One day at a popular North County art fair will cost an artist $160, for example, and just four hours to exhibit at a local art and wine festival costs $150. A single weekend art fair in a North Coast city park is $220, with an extra charge for a corner booth. The Open Studios Art Tour, rather than competing with these events, continues to nurture artists at all levels of their career by remaining a non-juried event. We encourage the public to be their own jury and choose which studios to attend by visiting our Online Visual Artist’s Directory, artsobispo.org/ovad; an ever-growing resource for collectors, enthusiasts, and gallery owners that features every Open Studios Art Tour participant

ARTS Obispo’s staff works for low wages in less-than-ideal conditions out of sincere devotion to the goals of the organization. Overhead for the office and ARTS Space Obispo, ARTS Obispo’s exhibition space in the SLO Creamery, is nearly $23,000 per year and continues to rise. These factors, plus decreasing revenues from the current recession and steady declines in recent years in grant funding, require ever-increasing income from fundraising efforts. We have recently reduced our costs by eliminating our printed quarterly newsletter, the ARTS Obispo News, and will soon debut an electronic version. The Open Studios Art Tour requires 11 months of work from ARTS Obispo staff, with the deadline for 2009 right around the corner, April 2 at 4 p.m. Funds from this amazing program keep our doors open, our programs moving forward, and help keep the arts alive in San Luis Obispo County.

We appreciate the opportunity to engage the community in the Open Studios Art Tour. To find out more about the tour and other programs of ARTS Obispo, please visit our website, artsobispo.org.

Marta Peluso is the executive director of ARTS Obispo, San Luis Obispo County Arts Council.  Contact her through the editor at econnolly@newtimesslo.com.

-- Marta Peluso - San Luis Obispo

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