Driving around Tompkins County, one might come across a curious green sign with the words “Greater Ithaca Art Trail,” leading to a home studio. It’s an odd sight, but one that local art admirers can take full advantage of during the month of October.
The Greater Ithaca Arts Trail will be open for two weekends in October, Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 12-13, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. all four days. The event is presented by the Community Arts Partnership. Signs are posted throughout the area indicating where a participating studio is located. Studios are also available to visit throughout the rest of the year, and there are also First Saturday events every other month.
During the two weekends, 41 artists in total will open their studio doors, free of charge, allowing art lovers from near and far to examine their work. There’s a wide variety of artists included on the art trail, so there’s plenty of options for visitors: The Community Arts Partnership lists “painters, photographers, mixed media artists, digital artists, creators of decorative functional art and a blacksmith.”
“I don’t do anything to get all those different kinds of mediums,” said Robin Schwartz, the program director for the Community Arts Partnership. “That’s just what we have in Tompkins County, those people are here.”
The studios can vary widely as well. For instance, some displays are held downtown in more conventional, well known spots; well-known local painter Domenica Brockman will have her work showing at the Petrune Gallery on East State St. Others are at studios in more rural areas, outside of the downtown scene, like at the Raven Barn Studio in Spencer, operated and featuring work by Margaret Corbit and Wes Blauvelt, which features ceramics (by Corbit) and mosaics (by Blauvelt). Some are even as intimate as the homes of the artists, like Robert Roemisch’s spot at 105 Jackson Hollow Rd. that shows his woodworking and sculpting skills in his home and around his property.
Allowing viewers into their home can be a big leap for some artists, Schwartz said, but it does provide a far different experience than normal. But it does go directly to the central point of the event when it was founded 21 years ago: to provide a platform by which artists and their audiences can grow closer.
“It was meant to be educational, a chance for the general public to come and see artists in their studios doing their work,” Schwartz said. “It was meant to be a tourist attraction. It was meant to help artists connect with their audience, since they often work in isolation. [...] Twenty-one years ago, it was fewer artists but pretty much the same event.”
There’s an added layer of discovery when artists are willing to not only show off their work, but the place they were while they made it. Inspirations and techniques can be revealed just through a glimpse at the space, something that might not be available in the more conventional gallery setting.
“You don’t actually know what it’s going to be like when you pull up and go into somebody’s house, so it’s like 41 little adventures,” Schwartz said. “We’re really lucky in Tompkins County to have so many talented artists. What’s great about the Art Trail is not only can you have long conversations with the artists, but also see the place where they have created the work.”
More information can be found at ArtTrail.com. Maps are also available to more easily find participating studios.