Painters, sculptors, photographers, glaziers, jewelers and a whole host of professional craftspeople have made Sedona a haven for creative expression. With dozens of fine art galleries standing as testaments to Sedona’s flourishing community of artists, their sculptures and statues signal to visitors that they have entered a place of wonder and inspiration.
Among the many local organizations to actively embrace the arts is the Sedona Visual Arts Coalition (SVAC), which was founded in 1996 by a group of artists in the area hoping to foster awareness and spread art education. One of SVAC’s most valued contributions to the community is its Open Studios Tour, which celebrates its tenth iteration on Friday, April 26, and continues through the weekend. With more than 150 members representing nearly every artistic discipline imaginable, from watercolor to ceramics, the SVAC offers workshops, exhibitions and a number of successful events.
A fixture among the established arts scenes in cities like Portland, San Francisco and Flagstaff, an open studios tour allows members of the public to engage in a self-guided journey through an area’s local arts scene. Participants are provided with a map featuring artwork from an array of artists working with several mediums, along with phone numbers and addresses, and artists spend the day receiving guests and demonstrating their crafts during interactive sessions. After meeting with an artist during an open studios tour, visitors are encouraged to ask questions, sample displays of artwork that may be for sale, and even bring a piece home to complete the experience.
According to Mike Upp, SVAC’s public relations coordinator for the 10th Annual Open Studios Tour and a participating artist who specializes in ceramics, the spring event has become the SVAC’s crowning achievement.
“Sedona’s Open Studios Tour has quickly grown from a fledgling event to one of the state’s most recognized studios tours,” Upp said. “Open Studios is a wonderful way to share artistic concepts and processes with the community and visitors alike.”
One of the main aspects of the SVAC’s Open Studios Tour that motivates Upp and his wife, Sharon, is the potential for education and inspiration. After first being exposed to the process of shaping clay into ceramic expressions during an open studios tour, Upp knows firsthand how influential simply meeting a professional artist can be for those just discovering their creative spark.
“To reach even one young person who loves drawing, painting or sculpting during the Open Studios Tour would mean everything,” he said. “Showing children that their passion for art can become a lifelong career is very important, both to myself and Sharon, and to the SVAC.”
In addition to his participation in the Open Studios Tour, both as a marketing coordinator and as a featured artist, Upp’s goal of guiding Sedona’s young people to the world of professional artistry continues through the SVAC’s variety of outreach programs.
“The SVAC Inter‐Generational Mentoring Program was created to be of service to our greater community,” said Upp. “One of the ways artists – in particular, the artists of SVAC – can give back to the community is to guide and teach young and old alike in discovering the joy and satisfaction of self-expression.”
As the owner of Earth and Fire Design, LLC, Upp also has worked actively to parlay his participation in the Open Studios Tour into professional exposure for his ceramic projects. To this end, he has worked in conjunction with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce to develop a targeted marketing campaign designed to reach art aficionados throughout Phoenix and Flagstaff. By working closely with Kegn Hall, the Chamber’s public relations and events manager, Upp is coordinating SVAC’s marketing campaign with the Chamber’s social media and newsletter delivery.
According to Hall, who works on an active basis to expand Sedona’s presence within a number of tourism markets, assisting with the Open Studios Tour is natural extension of the Chamber’s overall commitment to fostering the arts.
“Mike Upp has been a pleasure to work with, and his organization and attention to detail will most definitely contribute to the Open Studio Tour’s continued success,” she said. “The Sedona Chamber of Commerce is a sponsor; however, our main goal is to assist with SVAC in any way we can.”
Hall has emphasized the potential for the Open Studios Tour to attract art lovers from Phoenix and Flagstaff, with much of her marketing efforts aimed at arts organizations and major universities.
“The SVAC Open Studio’s Tour is a wonderful opportunity for both local and visiting art lovers to meet some of Sedona’s most unique, interesting artists,” Hall said. “To observe these artists in their creative space is an ingenious idea that prompts travel from all around the country. Since each studio is free and open to the public, it’s also a great chance for locals, schools and art colleges to gain perspective and inspiration.”
SVAC member and local businesswomen Shirley Eichten Albrecht is a self-taught basket weaver, with more than 20 years of experience integrating her unique designs and patterns to transform traditional types of weaving. She will be participating in her fifth Open Studios Tour this year. After attending a Basket Weaving Guild sale in St. Louis, Mo., Albrecht experienced the same spark of inspiration she now hopes to provide visitors during a tour of her studio. Upon moving to Sedona with her husband in 1997, Albrecht immediately became active in the area’s arts scene, joining SVAC and working with a number of artist groups.
“Sedona’s natural beauty, along with its thriving arts community, drew my husband and [me] to the area,” Albrecht said. “I founded a basket weaving guild, which still meets monthly. By day, I serve as gallery director for the Sedona Arts Center and I’m also a member of the Verde Valley Weavers & Spinners Guild.”
Having participated in SVAC’s Open Studios Tour since 2008, Albrecht is well acquainted with the process of meeting patrons, demonstrating her chosen art form and interacting with curious members of the public. When asked about her motivation for opening her home and studio to Sedona locals and visiting tourists, Albrecht expressed her appreciation for the community’s willingness to support its growing network of local artists.
“I continue to participate in the Open Studios Tour because it is good for the community, but also very beneficial for me and my art,” she said. “I love talking to people, educating them on the process and art of basket weaving, and I have met many new students and clients through this venue. People just love seeing artists in their own studio, watching them work and being able to ask questions directly.”
As the proprietor of Red Rock Baskets, Albrecht knows that the Open Studios Tour presents a tremendous opportunity for local artists to expand their reach beyond the realm of galleries, and to interact with her audience on a direct level.
“We are so fortunate to have some excellent artists working every day in the Sedona area because they bring a sense of entrepreneurial vibrancy to the entire community,” she said. “I have been fortunate to work with many of these artists, not only through SVAC but also at the Sedona Arts Center, and they are all very professional, doing what they love for a living and making a difference in people’s lives.” FBN
For more information about Sedona’s 10th Annual Open Studios Tour, April 26-28, log onto www.sedonaartistscoalition.org.