A Peek at the Process

A chef is to a kitchen as an artist is to a studio, and buying a piece of art from a gallery is equivalent to ordering a meal at a restaurant—the recipient only sees the finished product.

However, the Tucson Pima Arts Council's Fall Open Studio Tour opens the door to the creative kitchen.

"It's looking at how we are cooking our work," said participating artist Beata Wehr.

TPAC has organized the tour intermittently since 1987—at times, other organizations took the reins, said Emily Düwel, the council's communications manager. Participation was once limited to artists in downtown Tucson, but in recent years, TPAC has invited artists from all over Pima County to participate.

This year, more than 200 painters, sculptors, jewelry-makers and mixed-media artists will be featured. As many as 6,000 people have attended in past years, Düwel said.

The tour brochure shows participants how to chart their own course based on curiosity and geographic location. For each featured artist, there is an example of their work and their studio address.

"It's one thing to see artwork on nice, clean walls in a gallery," Düwel said. "It's another thing to go into a space and get a sense of the artistic process."

Artists can discuss their works with the public, and will have the opportunity to sell their art. All of the artists the Tucson Weekly talked to agree there is only one problem with participating in the studio tour: They can't visit their friends at other studios.

Painter Betina Fink participated in the first Open Studio Tour, and has returned ever since, with a few exceptions.

"Tucson has a strong community of artists, and I wanted to participate, because I feel bonded with that community," Fink said while perched on a stool at the 9th Street Studios cooperative. She is one of about 14 artists in the space, most of whom will participate in the Open Studio Tour. In her studio, a beach cruiser sits in a corner near an empty easel. The adjacent wall above her desk features an assortment of paintings and mixed-media pieces—the art of friends and mentors. Paintbrushes are clustered in jars on a desk along with several jars full of seashells for a painting class she teaches at The Drawing Studio. Her students often pop in to visit during the tour.

"Most of these paintings are not finished," Fink said, gesturing to the wall full of landscapes in progress. "For students, they can really understand how you got from one point to another."

Artists Glory Tacheenie-Campoy and Beata Wehr are inviting people not only to their studios, but also their homes. Campoy's studio is near her home, on the westside near Feliz Paseos Park. The native Arizonan, a painter and printmaker, enjoys the independent environment.

"I have more control over what I put on a wall and create, and (what I) allow the public to see," Campoy said.

She's already hung her works for this year's tour. The display shows off several brightly colored abstract paintings that Campoy said are inspired by the colors in nature.

"I find inspiration just about anywhere," Campoy said.

Wehr's roots lie in Poland, but she graduated with a master's degree in painting and combined media from the University of Arizona in 1999. The annual tour is a chance for her to transform her messy home studio into an intimate gallery that still shows the process of her work.

"I feel really rewarded after talking to people about my work," Wehr said.

She currently has a show at the University of Arizona Poetry Center that includes a series of mixed-media art books, but she plans to feature a series of gouache paintings during the Open Studio Tour. The style is similar to watercolors, but uses a different process.

Aside from showcasing her own work, Wehr sees the event as a way to participate in the larger community.

"Artists are not valued as they should be in society," Wehr said, "This is a very good idea to show to the public who we are, and what we are doing."

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