The rules are simple: Any member of the dense artistic community of Monterey County can join this almost 30-year-old event for a fee (starting at $175) and open their studio to the traveling audience. “A lot of people taking those tours are artists who love to peek into other artists’ studios and see how they do things,” says Arts Habitat Administrator Shirmaine Jones.
Arts Habitat took over the event in 2015 after the previous organization responsible for it “aged and disbanded,” Jones says. She has been the program administrator ever since. Under Arts Habitat’s purview the event is featured during two consecutive weekends, making it easier for visitors to reach more destinations on the Artists Studio Tour’s map.
Many artists, like the youngest one and one of the few sponsored by Arts Habitat, Gerardo Zambrano, 34, is planning to keep his art hanging the whole week in between, too.
Zambrano is a Monterey High School graduate who first tried painting only four years ago. He works at an electrical distributor during the week. “I have been pencil sketching before, but first took up painting in 2017 so I feel like I’m late,” Zambrano says. He started with acrylic, but “was kind of rushing” and “couldn’t wait to graduate to oil.” He picked up basic techniques online and within a year developed what is now his geometric series, his primary style at the moment. It is baroque-inspired; figurative representations over geometric backgrounds. Some patterns are Middle Eastern, some retro, some modern – their origins, backgrounds and cultural meanings differ. A big inspiration for Zambrano was a 1973 book on Maxfield Parrish by Coy Ludwig about the famous turn-of-the-century illustrator.
Zambrano will showcase his art at The Shop, 1271 10th St., Monterey. Six artists without studios will be provided space in the Carl Cherry Center in Carmel. Another five will be installed in the Hidden Valley Institute of Arts in Carmel Valley and three others in wineries along River Road.
It’s hard to judge exactly how many people take advantage of the tour each year. Some artists keep guest books, but that’s a rough estimate, Jones says. The estimate is 1,000 people per year, mainly from Monterey County, San Jose, San Francisco or points south. Recently, they have been receiving more guests from Los Angeles, so “we are on somebody’s map,” Jones says.
“Sales are being made spontaneously,” she adds. “People stumble upon pieces they like during a weekend trip to Carmel all the time.”
Fifty percent of the 70 artists showcased this year have participated in the past. A quarter of them do it every year. Sometimes, they take a break for a year or two, and come back. But there’s new blood too – approximately 25 percent of the artists are first-time studio tour participants, Jones says.