CORNVILLE — Artist Kevin James puttered around his studio this week in the historic 1916 barn at Cass Corner getting ready for visitors.

As an artist in rural Maine, he is often unable to show his work unless it is displayed in Portland or in seasonal galleries along the coast, James said.

That’s why this weekend’s Open Studio Tour focused mainly on artists in Somerset County is so important, he said.

“It’s been a great, great event,” James said of the tour, now in its fourth year. “We don’t get much exposure of our work; we don’t get much traffic out here to speak of.”

The tour, sponsored by the Wesserunsett Arts Council, runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in homes, barns, sheds, lofts and studios all over Somerset County and into neighboring Piscataquis County. This year’s tour will feature 17 artists and locations from Mercer to Ripley, Athens, Wellington, Canaan and Solon.

Visitors on Saturday will have an opportunity to see where the artists live and work as well as tour the countryside just as the fall foliage begins to appear, James said.

James’ studio is set up in a series of rustic rooms in barns built by Cornville native and Waterville attorney Harvey Doane Eaton, founder of the Kennebec Water District and co-founder of what would become Central Maine Power Co. Rugged wooded floors and walls, wood heat, books of poems and wide barn doors open onto James’ sculpture, works of found art and oil paintings displayed on the walls.

Eaton, who owned and operated Waterville’s Two-Cent Bridge, built the Cornville barns to house the main station of a railroad line from Skowhegan to Athens that never materialized.

Artworks from all 17 artists will include watercolors, metal and wood working, pastels, pencil on paper, oil painting, carving, pottery, textiles, found objects and sculpture.

“It’s great to have people come out and visit your studio. You have a chance to tell people what you do,” James said. “Showing them how and where your art is made, I think, is important to have the public become more aware, more appreciative of art; and that makes a big difference.”

The tour series began four years ago, after Solon artist Abby Shahn began searching for a way to exhibit her work while showing visitors the gardens and homes of the artists. Shahn teamed up with other area artists and resurrected the dormant Wesserunsett Arts Council, a nonprofit that was founded in Madison in 1998.

Tours are free and there will be snacks along the way.

“I think a lot of the artists, their homes and their gardens and their studios are their most wonderful works of art,” Shahn said. “I thought it would be nice for people to come out and see people at their own places.”

Shahn said area residents who wouldn’t necessarily go to an art gallery or have access to contemporary art will enjoy the tour. Shahn recommended use of the Maine Gazetteer, a GPS device or one of the maps on the Wessersunsett Arts web site or the Facebook page to find their way to each of the locations.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
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