Open Wide

“People want to see the inside of Margot’s Emporium [convenience store in Spreckels], but she’s likely to throw them out,” says Spreckels artist Jim Willis, who primarily paints with oils.

In the past, the Monterey County Artists Studio Tour enlisted artists from mostly the Peninsula to open their home studios to self-guided public tours all weekend. Artists Equity ran it for 25 years before tour director Michael Duffy passed the baton last year to Arts Habitat, which this year is running with it on fresh legs.

Shirmaine Jones, Arts Habitat’s administrator, says they’ve made upgrades.

In years past, Seaside and Salinas Valley artists – feeling overlooked in favor of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Carmel Valley – broke away and put on their own independent studio tours.

This year, they are all back in the fold.

Sandra Gray, who puts together the Seaside Artists Studios Tour, attended Arts Habitat’s meetings to see if Seaside was going to be represented adequately.

“They really are being inclusive,” Gray says, in terms of affordable pricing for artists to participate, and advertising dollars being spent equitably.

In the past, about 65 artists participated. There are almost twice as many now.

So many that they’ve stretched out the tour to two sets of weekends: Sept. 24-25 for the Peninsula and Oct. 1-2 for the Salinas Valley and North County. Some venues will be open both weekends.

Jones says there are artists who don’t have their own studios or appropriate spaces to invite the public, so they’re enlisting Oldemeyer Center, Hidden Valley Theater and Carl Cherry Center for those artists to show.

They’re also allowing art organizations to participate, instead of just individual artists. The Regional Artisans Association, located in the American Tin Cannery in P.G., is on the tour, and Pacific Grove Art School’s art class is showing in two model homes in East Garrison.

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And that’s an interesting development. Arts Habitat was founded with the explicit mission of establishing a live/work space in East Garrison… more than 20 years ago. It was founded by members who branched out from Artists Equity. So they have shared history.

The Peninsula still retains most of the venues, but venues are sprinkled as far as King City to Royal Oaks. There are artists who did not know the tour had been resurrected until it was too late to sign up, so next year it can grow even bigger.

“Our objective is to make the tour truly [countywide],” Jones says.

It’s like the opposite of Brexit.

THE MONTEREY COUNTY ARTISTS OPEN STUDIOS Tour kicks off 7-9pm Friday, Sept. 23 at Pacific Grove Art Center, and Sept. 30 at Hartnell College Art Gallery. The tour runs 11am-5pm Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 24-25 on the Peninsula and Coast; Oct. 1-2 in Salinas, Salinas Valley and North County. Free to attend. 624-6111,

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