Stonington Borough, CT
Mystic Chamber of Commerce
Noank Historical Society
HOPKINTON — From painting and drawing to jewelry making, ceramics and mixed media, the HOPArts Studio Trail offers something for all art lovers at its eighth annual event.
This year’s trail features 36 local artists sharing the process of their craft with the public at 18 studios designated as trail stops.
The event, which continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., serves as both an opportunity to bring together artists in the area and a chance for these artists to “demystify” their work for the larger public, according to Leah Grear, who was involved in creating the original event.
Grear, also a ceramics and clay artist with her own studio on the trail, said she quickly noticed the lack of community gatherings between local artists after moving to Hopkinton eight years ago.
“Honestly, I was kind of lonely,” she said. “I wanted to meet other local artists and create that central gathering place.”
Together with Beth Drainville, another local artist, and Michelle Walker, president of the Langworthy Public Library in Hope Valley, Grear advertised for a studio trail event with signs at local stores. Her efforts were met with a wide response.
“The artists just started coming out of the woodwork,” she said. “It was just a matter of striking the match. The fact that it took off said to me that there was a real need for this.”
From a grass-roots idea, the studio trail has now grown to be an annual town tradition, attracting more artists and art enthusiasts every year.
Potter and painter Susan Shaw, also featured on the trail, led this year’s steering committee in organizing the various components of the event, which include publicity, finance and social media.
The five-person committee has been meeting weekly since March, according to Shaw, working to create the path for this year’s trail and review applications from interested participants.
“We always want to have the most diverse group of highly talented people we can find,” she said. While artists must apply for entry into the event, Shaw said the committee will encourage certain artists to apply, especially if they work in an unusual medium. Many artists also return multiple times, though they have to reapply each year.
About 25 percent of this year’s participants are “guest artists,” meaning that while they may live and work close to Hopkinton, they are using space in other artists’ studios to display their craft in this event.
Even for veteran artists of the event, Shaw said every year brings something new and different, which is reflective of the nature of art.
“As expressive, creative people, their work is always changing,” she said. “As an artist myself, posing new challenges in my work is what keeps my interest.”
Among the artists featured this year was Westerly quiltmaker Judith Larzelere, who was recently awarded the Rhode Island Council for the Arts 2014 Fellowship in Crafts grant.
Larzelere has been a part of the HOPArts Studio Trail for the past four years, and said the audience is what keeps her coming back.
“It’s a chance to meet a really informed buying public,” she said. “The setting is so refreshing, so different compared to the other craft shows I do, which are in a more commercial space.”
Another Westerly artist on the trail agreed that the crowd of visitors is very unique.
“It’s the interaction with the people that stop by that I love,” said Terrie Magill, a jewelry maker who joined the event five years ago. “They have such an interest in seeing what’s going on, how things are done.”
Magill was one of several artists on the trail giving live demonstrations of her work, which involves molding and etching pieces of metal.
Larzelere and Magill said the organization of the event and the high quality of the other artists involved make them reapply every year.
“Susan worked really hard to put this together, and it’s a wonderful experience for everyone,” said Magill.
Like the artists, some of Saturday’s visitors were returnees.
Lois Cuddy, of Richmond, said this was her third year attending the event, bringing with her two friends and fellow art lovers. Cuddy said she is also studying under one of the tour’s artists, Beth Drainville.
“I’m learning how to paint, but I’d hate to call myself an artist,” she said.
Her friends quickly chimed in. “She’s an artist; she definitely is,” said Susan Aylward, of North Kingstown, and Sally Burke, of Wakefield. “We’re just fans, that’s it.”
While Cuddy said they have always appreciated art, frequenting museums and events like the Wickford Art Festival, the HOPArts Studio Trail is unique because it lets viewers see how the art is made.
“We get to see the work in progress,” said Aylward.
The threesome said they made the visit a full-day outing, hoping to see as many artists as possible. While they had already purchased some items, all agreed that it was impossible to pick a favorite artist or medium.
“We’re open to everything,” said Cuddy. “I can’t pick just one medium and say that’s what I love.”
Peg and Les Regenbogen, of East Greenwich, have never attended this particular studio trail, though they said they have traveled the West Bay Open Studio event several times in the past, and are no strangers to the art world.
“We always like to see what local artists are doing, and how they are progressing in their work,” Peg Regenbogen said.
“Progressing and maturing,” added Len, who said the couple has several art pieces in their home.
In particular, both said they loved the work of Carol Schmedinghoff, a Cranston-based artist who carves birds from wood and places them in intricate, three-dimensional settings she creates from natural materials.
“It’s very special,” said Peg.
For more information on the event, artists and studio locations, visit www.hoparts.org.