SKOWHEGAN — Central Maine artists got together this week at Skowhegan’s newest art venue to plan for the Aug. 12 Open Studio Tour of artists’ barns, lofts, studios and gardens.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Wesserunsett Arts Council, this year’s tours are billed as “a summer arts celebration.”

The tours, which are free, are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at more than 20 locations in Mercer, Canaan, Skowhegan, Anson, Solon, Palmyra, Hartland, Wellington and other locations.

The idea of the open tours is to enable people to meet and visit with local artists and experience the connection each artist has with her or his rural Maine setting, said Lolly Phoenix, of New Portland, one of the founders of WesArts and of the studio tours eight years ago.

She said the tours have been held in the fall in recent years, but the event often conflicted with craft guild events and other community celebrations, so it was moved to August this year.

“We could never find the right dates, so we said let’s try it again, in the summer, when Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture students might still be here,” she said. “And there just might be more summer people.”

Solon artist Abby Shahn said she remembers the original studio and gallery tours being held in the summer so people could visit the many flower gardens the artists had at their homes.

During the tours, visitors can see where the artists live and work. They can explore the galleries, as well as the countryside to see oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, landscapes, abstract images, still lifes, furniture, felting, pottery and sculpture. Artwork will be for sale and refreshments will be offered at all studios.

The South Solon Meeting House also will be available for tours that day. Built in 1842, the meeting house has its original podium, pews, choir loft, windows and steeple and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1950s, a community-building project covered the walls and ceiling in frescoes.

Abbott Meader, 81, of Oakland, said he and his brother Forrest Meader will join some of the other artists to display their work at one of the galleries in Skowhegan — Central Maine Arts Gallery, River Roads Gallery or at Fourteen Madison, where this week’s pre-tour party was held.

“I definitely intend to be there,” he said. “I’m a painter. I taught at Colby College for many years — drawing, painting. I’ve been a filmmaker as well. My brother and I have collaborated at various times, and we talk about our work and swap ideas.”

Doug Frati, 63, of Palmyra, said he is looking forward to the open tours at his studio at 267 Square Road, off Route 152. He said this year will be his first on the tour.

“People are interested right now in the wood carving I’m doing,” he said of his work on found furniture and antique wood. “I carve different animals and geometry. I’m excited about the tour, looking forward to it.”

This week’s pre-tour party for the artists was held Wednesday at 14 Madison Ave. in Skowhegan, which owner Christy Whitmore calls “a creative clubhouse” where area artists can meet and showcase their work. It serves as an art gallery and performance space. Currently paintings by Milton Christianson, of Ripley, are on display there.

Whitmore and her husband, Sam, who live in Starks, bought the building in February. They use the upstairs apartment for their business, Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey, a media analysis and consulting firm.

Having an artist connection in downtown Skowhegan offers “a lot of great energy” without having the luxury of daily foot traffic, Whitmore said.

“We looked at this space and we thought there’s so many creative people in this area who have a lot of great ideas, so we’re looking at making it available for people who want to do workshops or pop-up shops,” Whitmore said.

She said she and Amanda Slamm worked on the open studio tours and decided to create OpenStudioMaine, a website that would highlight local art and events all year long.

“The point of it was to shine a spotlight on the central Maine art community,” Whitmore said. “Every area sort of had their own, but this particular area didn’t really seem to have one.”

The Wesserunsett Arts Council is composed of three committees: the Open Arts committee, consisting of visual and performing artists who oversee annual arts events and special art activities; WXNZ radio, a community radio station found at WXNZ-LP 98.1FM, with a studio in the former county jail in downtown Skowhegan; and a partnership with Main Street Skowhegan to form the Somerset Cultural Planning Committee.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]



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