Some new faces and new locations will dot the art map Saturday for the ninth annual Open Studio Tour sponsored by the Wesserunsett Arts Council.

More than two dozen artists from a wide swath of rural central Maine will open their studios to the public Saturday as part of a day-long tour through Somerset County and part of neighboring Piscataquis County. Some of the studios will also be on Sunday.

The tour will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in homes, barns, sheds, lofts and studios from Anson, Mercer, Canaan, Ripley and into Wellington in Piscataquis County, giving art lovers a chance to see where area artists live and work while they tour the countryside, said Wes Arts’ Lolly Phoenix, of New Portland.

“The idea is that there is a distinction between studios and galleries,” Phoenix said by phone Monday. “Galleries show the finished product, with studios you get to see where people work, what their work space is like and what they may be in the middle of doing, so you get to see the process. It’s very personal to that artist.”

Phoenix said the studios are mostly at the artists home so “you get to meet the dog and see the garden” and where the artists live in rural Maine.

Phoenix said some of the recent additions to the tour include Desiree DuBois’ Stone People, hand-painted stone faces at 41 South Factory St., in Skowhegan; John Harlow’s photography, upstairs at 14 Madison Ave. in Skowhegan; paintings by Susan Hellewell on Brighton Road in Bingham; and Steve and Maryann Anderson on Frederick’s Corner Road in Norridgewock.


“She does fabric arts and Steve does metal sculpture,” Phoenix said of the Andersons.

Phoenix said this is the first year that Sunday has been added to the tour and only the second year of having it in the summer, not in the fall.

“We’re giving it a try,” she said. “We’ll see how that works for both the artists and the tour people. These are busy times and you want to have it during good weather because people are doing things — in the fall, it always seemed like we were bumping into another big event.

“The tour changes a little bit every year. We had people kind of come and go and come back.”

There also are the regulars of the tour, including Abby Shahn and James Fangbone on Rowell Mountain Road in Solon, Bernie Beckman on Route 154 in Wellington, Kevin James on Lakeview Drive in Smithfield and Wally Warren on Stream Road in Ripley.

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 tour was hatched nine years ago when woodworker Michael Hoy, of Solon, and Shahn and Phoenix tried to find a way to bring people to the arts rather than bring art to the people. There are 25 studio locations along the tour this year. There is a map of the tour by Wally Warren and a list of locations on the arts council website.

Shahn, who will display her paintings along with an exotic shrine with multiple art pieces assembled by her partner, James Fangbone, said the rural art tour got started because she thought local artist studios were a good expression of who the artists were. She also said people in the area often wondered “what we were up to out in the boondocks,” so this was the chance to show them.

“It was a way for local people to come and see what we’re doing,” Shahn said. “Stuff is OK in the galleries, but I think it looks much better in somebody’s studio.”

Visitors also can choose which studios they would like to see for oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, landscapes, abstract images, still life, furniture, pottery, sculpture and more. Work will be for sale.

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.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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