By EMILY RAMSEY
LOCAL ARTISTRY: Patrons view art from 10 Tulsa artists during Tulsa’s Art Studio Tour, April 20-21. Mary Jane Porter discusses puppet making and the various recycled materials she uses, including old fabrics and shoulder pads.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
“Artists are living and working all around us,” says Kelsey Karper, associate director of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (). Encouraging art knowledge and appreciation that artists are everywhere remains the prime objectives of the Tulsa Art Studio Tour, which debuted in Tulsa in 2002.
The two-day event, held April 20-21, offers the community 10 hours of access to local artists and their studios scattered throughout Tulsa. The tour runs five hours both days and allows attendees to choose their tour route and speed, coming and going as they please, with the freedom to linger in whichever studios hold their attention. Among the artists featured this year were those working in screenprinting, installations, puppet making and polymer clay.
“The tour gives people insight into how a piece is made and gives them deeper understanding, which creates meaningful conversations with the artists,” says Karper.
Grace Grothaus, who creates backlit paintings, experienced many such conversations. “I got some people who had never seen anything like what I do,” she says. “Others were more familiar and enjoyed seeing the process behind the work.”
In contrast to initial observations, then, it’s not just the patrons who benefit from the tour.
Printmaker Richard Wills was surprised at the public’s response to some of his unfinished pieces. “There was so much interest in my failed attempts and my experimental work,” he says. “I got a lot of . . . ideas on how to fix the problems I had encountered.”
Although an admittedly private artist, metal sculptor Michael Sexton enjoyed the opportunity the tour provided him to explain his art. He chose to display pieces that illustrate his evolution as an artist. His medium of choice transitioned from paint to metal after he moved to Tulsa in 1997.
“I was standing in my kitchen, looking at one of my paintings, and I realized that I could turn my brushstroke into a tangible form,” he says.
Polymer clay artist Kathy Wills got to explain her jewelry-making medium—one that she found many were unfamiliar with. “I think most people were not sure what polymer clay is or what it takes to work with [it],” she says. For those who were familiar with the medium, Wills enjoyed sharing “the full range of possibilities” that polymer clay offers, such as the mixing of colors and the sizes and shapes that can be created.
“(The tour) is all about showcasing diversity,” says Grothaus, who has served on the studio tour planning committee in past years. “There are so many people doing art in Tulsa, and this shows what they are doing.”
Grothaus creates her unique art by painting onto an acrylic, or other material, surface, cutting it into panels and then arranging them until the work “feels complete,” she says. Artificial light is then added. “People who buy my work love that light becomes a part of the work,” she says.
Grothaus even made some sales during the two-day tour, including a woman who asked her to make a backlit streetscape painting for her daughter living in Colorado.
From backyards and rooftops to Grothaus’ high-tech work space set among sprawling, old money mansions, studio spaces were as diverse as the artists themselves. “Seeing the range of studio spaces that artists use—a garage, a nicer studio space—shows that artists can work in any place,” Karper says. “People find that very inspiring, that they can take anything, like their kitchen table, and turn it into a work space.”
Artists interested in participating in future studio tours can contact at 405-879-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org. And they can trust that Tulsa’s Art Studio Tour is here to stay.
“There are so many artists in Tulsa,” Karper says. “We have many more years’ worth of artists for our tour.”