On the art tour, you can’t see it all, but you can see a lot

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Photos by David Gordon

 

I call myself the tour coordinator,” said Barbara Bravo.

In fact, she is recognized as the person who makes the Saugerties Artists’ Studio Tour happen, a task she assumed in 2004. This year’s tour was held the weekend of Aug. 10–11.

“Saugerties has a big artists’ community, and there was really no venue to show your work unless you could let people know and get them to come to your studio,” Bravo said at the tour kickoff celebration Friday, Aug. 9. “Nancy [Campbell] spearheaded it for the first two years, then when she ran for the Town Board she told me, ‘I’m running for the Town Board; you have to take this over.’”

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She described what attendees look for on the tour.

“When people come around, they want to see that the studio is a working studio,” Bravo said. “They don’t want you to clean up too much; they want to see you knee-deep in what you do, but it has to be safe. Mess is OK, danger is not OK.”

Studios that are handicapped-accessible are so marked on the maps, and there is no charge for anything on the tour, Bravo said.

The tour is almost a year-round job, starting with writing grant applications almost as soon as each year’s tour is complete. There’s a break in December, but then comes the job of lining up the studios for the following year.

The 36 studios, spaced out over virtually the entire area of Saugerties, represent more than anyone can cover in the two days allocated for the tour. Bravo estimates about six per day as a comfortable pace. Taken together with the natural turnover in artist participation, it’s possible to attend every year’s tour without seeing the same studio twice (at least for a few years).

New this year was the participation of five bed-and-breakfasts, where some of the artists joined patrons. Several local restaurants and the Saugerties Farmers Market offered lunch specials for visitors.

“This is our first endeavor of really interfacing with the commercial sector,” Bravo said. “The tour is working with the Lodging Association, and we’ll see how it works out.”

The opening night celebration has been held at the gallery at Opus 40 since the tour’s second year, said Tad Richards. Despite pouring rain, about 200 people passed through during the evening, about half the number that often attended in years when the weather cooperated.

While Richards had his drawings and computer art on display, he is primarily a writer, he said. He’s collaborated on a number of books and has written a novel, “Nick and Jake,” which he described as “a fun-filled romp through the McCarthy Era.”

While many other communities have organized arts tours, “there’s nothing like what Barbara has put together,” Richards said.

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