Artists and craftspeople in Gardiner are getting ready to fling wide their doors to visitors once again the weekend of June 9 and 10, when the Gardiner Open Studio Tour (GOST) returns for its sixth year running. You can tell that the annual self-guided mobile artfest is imminent when dozens of brightly painted doors, unhinged, start popping up in the heart of the hamlet, fresh from their seasonal debut at the Gardiner Cupcake Festival.
You don’t have to commit to designing a repurposed door to join the GOST group, but the colorful streetside display has certainly become a recognizable calling card of the tour hosts, whose number has swelled from nine in the first such event in October 2013 to 22 this spring. One of the newest exhibitors, Tiffany Dyckman, was excited to participate, having a wooden door to spare from the old barn on Rutsonville Road that she and her husband have been busily renovating into studio space for the past couple of years.
Dyckman’s door, currently perched near the Gardiner Post Office, sports a hand holding a calligraphy brush painting the words “Local Handmade.” The design, with its strong outlines and vintage-circus-poster vibe, hints at her years of working as a tattoo artist back in the 1990s. These days, Dyckman teaches art at Lakeland High School in the Westchester County community of Shrub Oak, where learning to do real, non-digital photography in an old-fashioned darkroom is a popular elective these days. But when she gets back to her home studio, where the walls are festooned with her gorgeous high-fired stoneware coffee mugs, she mostly turns to her potter’s wheel. “The day of the tour, I’ll be throwing pots all day long,” says Dyckman.
She was recruited to GOST by her ceramics mentor, Lynn Isaacson of New Prospect Pottery, who was one of the group’s founding members. The two are near neighbors, and Dyckman regularly takes her stoneware to Isaacson’s kilns for firing. (One of this year’s GOST sponsors, the Hoot Owl restaurant and tavern, lies squarely in between: a good spot for tourgoers to take a lunch break, and rumored to be the site of a lively gathering of local artists after studio closing time.) “I like to share the studio and firing experience, especially with those folks who have never seen a firing of an atmospheric kiln. People are amazed, as I still am, how earth, air, fire and water all come together to make the miracle of pottery,” says Isaacson of her involvement with the tour.
Painter Jean Tansey calls Isaacson’s outreach to Dyckman “an example of how the tour has grown a network of professional artists throughout the greater Gardiner area.” “I love that there’s a community of artists around me,” Dyckman enthuses, and many of the other GOST participants echo this sense of heightened connection. “It is enlightening for neighbors to recognize that there is a lot of creative activity in their community. Hopefully it enhances pride in place and encourages some interesting conversations. It always feels good to get to know the often-anonymous people next door!” says potter Annie O’Neill. “As one of the original artists who started the Gardiner Open Studio Tour, I had few expectations of the event and how it would grow. Little did I know how many lasting friendships I would make with the other participating artists, as well as many deep connections made throughout the community,” says oil painter Marsha Massih, adding, “Sales and exposure have been a great benefit as well.”
For some home-based artists, used to working in solitude much of the time, the open-studio concept is a refreshing incentive to reconnect with the wider world through public appreciation of their work. “Making art, for me, is a very private activity. Opening my studio for the Gardiner Open Studio Tour is the opposite: It gives me a chance to see how my work is seen by others, and to explain, as best I can, what it’s about, why I believe that art is life-enhancing. It’s fun to show off the magic of painting in melted beeswax,” says painter Marilyn Perry, who works in acrylics and encaustics. “The tour also makes me clean up my studio!”
Pastel artist Andrea McFarland expresses similar thoughts: “The tour is different from my gallery shows, because people can see my work environment and get a feeling for what makes me tick. I really enjoy showing the materials and demonstrating how I use them, especially to kids and young adults, so they can see how art can be an everyday part of life: You don’t have to be an expert to be creative.” “I love opening up my otherwise-private world of studio and showroom to the enthusiastic wanderers on the Gardiner Open Studio Tour trail. Equally important to me, being part of this is a great opportunity to link up with so many artists in the community,” agrees potter Michelle Rhodes. Painter and GOST co-founder D. M. Weil says, “Standing in awe of a blank canvas, my body buzzes and my mind gets lost in infinite possibilities. Getting to share my experience through my art with GOST visitors is the icing on the cake.”
Other participants in GOST 2018 are painters Marcia Cole, Ron Schaefer and John A. Varriano, pastel artists Lucile Michels-Morris and Bruce Pileggi, mixed-media artists Anna Davis, Leonie Lacouette, Meadow and Cynthia Winika, photographers Jonathan Pazer and Gregory Thompson, glassmaker Carolyn Baum and fiber artist Alexa Ginsburg. Many will be demonstrating their crafts while you visit their studios, and all will be offering artworks for sale.
To preview photos of some of the beautiful work of GOST participants, read their bios and download the tour map, visit www.gardineropenstudiotour.com.