The free tour has been a year in the making, as organizers Anne Giancola and Dennis Baker have brainstormed with area artists on the best way to host longtime art lovers as well as the newly curious in enjoyable and informative formats.
"We are excited to show off the beauty of Tri-Valley art," said Giancola, president of the Alliance for the Visual Arts. "People definitely like to see artists working. They are always curious about the process."
"It's a combination of 'Here is what I have done' and 'Here is my studio,'" Baker said.
A studio tour is a great way to expose children to art, he noted, as he has seen at previous events.
"When parents would bring children, they would see the space and the kids' eyes would light up, looking at all these brushes, acrylics and oils," Baker said.
He also wants to help parents connect with artists as teachers, and he is working to welcome school and college students into the arts community and to take part in exhibiting.
Art forms on the tour run the gamut -- from paintings, ceramics, sculpture, glass, mixed media, photography and collage, to jewelry and wearable art.
"It's interesting to see all these artists doing all kinds of mediums and to talk about what the process is, and to see the finished products," Giancola said.
Baker, who works mostly in oils, has been painting for about 21 years, first while a pilot for Southwest Airlines. He and his wife raised their daughters in Pleasanton then moved to a larger place in Livermore where he could have a studio. When he retired in September 2020, he began to pursue his art full time.
"And it gave me time to dedicate to starting an open studio tour," Baker said. "In years past I joined organizations on the other side of the hill but we decided to do it organically."
"There are just a wealth of opportunities in the Bay Area, and in Sacramento," he added. "I've spent a lot of time both working with professional teachers and joining that with art history."
East Bay Open Studios has been taking place for years, he noted, but focuses on the west side of the hills. He said he talked to its organizer, who included a weekend for the east side of the hills in 2019.
"A tremendous number of people were coming out," Baker recalled, and 16 local artists participated.
So he is confident that this year's Tri Valley Artist Studio Tour will be a success.
The response from artists has been tremendous, he said. Some are coming together in collectives to present their art rather than in their own homes. The Bothwell Arts Center in Livermore will have 17 artists; Firehouse Arts Center in downtown Pleasanton will have nine upstairs in its studios.
"We have 19 venues, five are collectives and the rest are people's houses," Baker said.
He will be in his studio, with another three artists in the main house.
"I'll actually be working on something," he said.
TVASTart.com has an interactive map of the venues that lists the artists and their mediums and also provides driving directions. And it has bike routes, with choices from 4 to 55 miles and varying degrees of incline.
A state-of-the-art online virtual gallery enables people to "visit" the studios.
"It will let the public see and speak with the artists in real time while seeing their works and those of all the artists," Baker explained. "The virtual gallery is working now and will be utilized by most of the artists the days of the event to interact with those who can't make it to their venue."
Baker said they decided last year to include a virtual element in case people were hesitant to visit in person due to the lingering pandemic. He contacted software engineers at PLUTO, who created a five-minute training video for folks interested in virtual visits to the studios.
"You can pull up the virtual site, find the individual you're looking for, click on their name, and be teleported with your avatar standing right in front of them," Baker said.
The website also has a complete catalog of artists with a QR code linking to websites and photos.
Baker and Giancola hope this year's open studio tour will be the first of many.
"The first year is the hardest," Baker said. "I'm hoping after awhile people will know it is happening every fall. I hope the public will engage and get an appreciation of the amount and variety of artistic creativity that is right here in our backyard."
Giancola, who paints interiors including murals, faux wood grain and marble, grew up in California and, after 30 years in Boston, moved to Pleasanton in 2013. She is manager of the Bothwell Arts Center and said the arts scene in the Tri-Valley is similar to that in the Boston area.
"The struggles are exactly the same -- affordable studio space, and trying to sell their work," Giancola said. "We had all ages and skill levels of artists, from the emerging young to people who came to art as their second career. I always had this passion for trying to help artists make sales.
"The comradeship of an arts collective is important, shows or open studios, to meet and collaborate," she continued. "We have open studios at the Bothwell several times most years, and they are pretty popular. We always make them family friendly."
Visitors ask questions about the creative process and the meaning of various paintings, Baker said.
He is currently working on abstract figures and with the theme of music. He uses art to express how people interact with the world and is exploring the concept of personal identity.
"My belief is that we are not just ourselves but many things outside our bodies," he said.
The Tri Valley Artist Studio Tour kicks off with a preview exhibit hosted by artist Darcie Kent from 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11. at her Almost Famous Wine Lounge on Vasco Road.
"It's a chance for artists to meet and greet each other as well as the public," Giancola said. "It's a good way to get a taste of the weekend."
The tour hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and guests can begin at any point, visiting as many venues as they choose from the catalog.
"We encourage people to see the quality of art available out here in the Tri-Valley," Giancola said, "and unique and local is good way to get your feet into purchasing artwork."
"But," she added, "we welcome anybody who is just curious about what this is all about."
Weekend of art
What: Tri Valley Artist Studio Tour -- 57 artists in home studios and collectives
Who: Alliance for the Visual Arts
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 13-14
Where: 19 locations throughout the Tri-Valley
Details and catalog: TVASTart.com
Preview show: 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11; Almost Famous Wine Lounge, 2271 S. Vasco Road, Livermore
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