by Gene Marrano
Last weekend Botetourt County picked up on a popular trend that has done well in Roanoke, and the results were very encouraging. The First Annual Open Studios Artist’s Tour, which was billed as Art in the Country, allowed visitors to visit 16 local artists involved with a variety of media. Several of those queried called it a big success, with a larger than expected number of visitors – and a sure bet to return in 2013. Artists were spread out in three locations: Fincastle, Daleville and Troutville.
Nancy Dahlstrom teaches art at Hollins and works in her Fincastle home, where she also gives private classes. “I do etchings on copper and then print them onto paper,” said Dahlstrom, who just opened a brand new, sunny, working studio on her property, just up the path from a cozy home. “Monotype printing – you get one shot at it” – is also her bailiwick.
An undergraduate course she took in etching led Dahlstrom to pursue that media as a passion; she says, “I just love the whole process.” Her long battle with Lyme disease forced her to quit teaching for a while, and Dahlstrom says she “had to learn how to draw again.”
Dahlstrom loved the concept of the Open Studios Tour. “We started meeting early in the summer [to plan]. It’s been terrific to interact with the other artists and I think it’s wonderful to have the public out. They get to see what artists do and get to see their spaces.” One visitor told her “he had no idea there were so many good artists in a small area.” She also explained etching to many of the laymen that stopped by. “They were amazed at how complicated it is.”
Painter Edward Bordett helped organize the event. “We’re already talking about what we can do to make it more successful,” said Bordett, an ex-New Yorker who likes painting city scenes. Noting that the tour was rather spread out, Bordett said “we’re hoping that people are willing to venture farther to get to the different locations.”
Woodworker Joseph “Jake” Cress was a stage actor in years past. His series of ten hand-carved chairs, featuring a claw foot and other oddities, were the result of more than 20 years of planning and building. Many are now in museums but one remains at his downtown Fincastle studio and home. The 1800’s era property also doubles as a bed & breakfast. “No electric tools [used],” Cress told one visitor during the Open Studios tour.
Cress, who uses oak, mahogany and cherry wood that has been dried for at least two years, has one of his chairs at The Smithsonian. A friend who owned a saw mill gave him a “chunk of cherry [wood]” that started him on his way. Cress said of the tour, “we were delightfully inundated with people; this is wonderful.”
Magae Hartzell, whose work can also be found at the Market Gallery in downtown Roanoke, displayed dozens of paintings, mostly abstract and impressionist. One entitled Roanoke’s Star City features just that – hundreds of stars, including the iconic one on Mill Mountain. The Troutville resident called the first Open Studios tour “so exciting.” She hopes it will tie in with other events in the future, like music concerts and wine festivals.
Hartzell praised the county’s tourism department for pulling the artists together – something akin to “herding frogs,” she noted. “I think it’s a wonderful event. It couldn’t be better for the first time.” Hartzell enjoyed explaining some of her art to visitors that came by. “It’s going to be annual and it’s going to grow.”