Southeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour | Go Behind the Scenes in Artists’ Workspaces

Jewel McDonald has carved out as corner of her office as her art studio, where she paints ad draws.

Leonardo DaVinci preferred a small space. Georgia O’Keeffe used everything from a Model-A Ford with the back seat removed, to a small backyard shack on Lake George, to a light-filled adobe room in New Mexico. Jackson Pollack preferred the floor of his studio, and Andrew Wyeth was game for “people’s attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.”

This month offers a rare opportunity for art lovers to explore the intimate relationship between artist and studio on the 2nd Annual Southeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour, October 16-17, 2010. Over 40 artists in five southeast Iowa counties will open their doors for the public to enjoy a self-guided tour of a wide variety of working spaces where, according to  Gertrude Stein, the “daily miracle” of creation occurs.

An artist’s studio space often reflects the medium in which the artist works. Oil and acrylic painting, sculpture, pottery, fiber arts, stained and blown glass, photography, and metal arts all require certain elements to function as a supportive studio space. Thus, a studio can range from a card table in the corner of the dining room to a full-blown, custom-created space—and anything else in between.

Potters like Linda Ross and Mark Wilkins have resourcefully converted barns and outbuildings to house their studios and kilns. Printmaker and painter John Schirmer has neatly organized a 12-by-12-foot studio at the back of his house to produce works of art in several different media. Diana Watt considers her entire flower garden a part of her studio, where she creates dried flower art, greeting cards, and other floral ephemera. Painter and sculptress Stacey Kitakis Hurlin’s sunlit studio in Jefferson County’s Eco-Village is inside her “off-the-grid” home, which uses only the sun and wind for power.

But just as each space is unique to a particular artist, a studio can provide a unique flavor of inspiration, a spiritual sustenance, and a focal point for an artist.

Fairfield artist Jim Shrosbree calls his studio “a private sort of magical space.” He likes to keep it organized and open. “Every once in a while,” he says, “especially if I start to feel stagnant, I clean the place up and put everything away. That brings clarity and a new perspective, which can trigger a new phase of working.”

Spanish artist Joan Miro summed up his feelings about his workspace by simply saying, “I think of my studio as a vegetable garden where things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water.”

Seeing and understanding the space where artworks are created can lend appreciation to the final works. The studio can serve as a context for a particular piece of art, as well as create an intimacy between the art patron and the actual art work.

“I prefer going to an artist’s studio to see paintings rather than to a gallery,” explains collector Sol Waksman. “In the studio, I can see current work as well as new work that is still in progress. In addition, I can also usually see older works by the artist that can help to give me a sense of where they’ve been and where they’re going.”

The Southeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour will also include several collective studio spaces, where a number of artists gather to create together. The Art Guild of Burlington, Iowa Contemporary Art Gallery, Keokuk Art Center, and Morning Star Studio will be exhibiting numerous artists, and Donna Colby’s Flying Leap Art Space will offer participants some hands-on art experience.

Mark your calendars for a unique art event you will not soon forget.

For more information see Southeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour, visit Or pick up a tour brochure at any of the artists’ studios beforehand.

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