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Philomath Open Studios: Artists offer peeks into how they work (copy)

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It's just about the oldest story in the book: Mid-valley artist Keith Bowers was unable to attend an early planning meeting for this year's Philomath Open Studios.

So they put him in charge of publicity.

He doesn't mind, though: Bowers was a first-time participant last year in the event, in which artists, with invited guests, throw open their studios to the public for two fall weekends. He enjoyed the weekends so thoroughly that he volunteered to take the deep dive this year: He's hosting in his studio and has invited ceramicist Claire Elam and painter Jana Johnson to join him.

In all, this year's Philomath Open Studios includes 14 studios, all in the Philomath area, and 38 artists. For art fans who don't mind a little driving, it's an opportunity to see artists in their native habitat (their studios) and to see work in a variety of media.

Bowers will be displaying his paintings, assemblages and photos — work that occasionally features a touch of whimsy and, sometimes, just a bit of horror.

And he also will be relishing the opportunity to just talk to the people who come to his studio. 

"One of the things I love to do is talk to people," he said, "not just about what I do but about art and creativity in general."

And those conversations all happen in the relatively relaxed settings of the studio — not in a gallery setting, which can seem a little more formal.

In fact, Bowers said, the Open Studios format sometimes puts him in mind of working a shift at a retail store, where you never know what to expect; you might go 30 minutes with just one or two visitors, and then "suddenly there's 10 people" milling around.

One benefit of the tour is the sheer number of different styles on display. Depending on how you structure your trip (advance planning is a good idea), you could see work that includes painting to basketry to jewelry to glass mosiacs to sculpture and ceramics — not to mention some artwork that defies easy characterization.

Despite the relaxed nature of the Open Studios setting, it's serious business for the artists involved: "For certain people on the tour, this is how they make most of their artistic income for the year," Bowers said.

That's part of the reason why planning for the event starts in February and continues up to the opening weekend. 

Bowers pointed to one more attribute of the Open Studios tour: He said attendees often find that the travel between destinations can be as pleasant as perusing each new studio. "This is a really good opportunity to have a really nice drive and to see houses you've never seen." 


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