Story and photo by Andrea Tomkins –
The West End Studio Tour has been going strong for 20 years, and if you haven’t made time for it before, this is definitely the year to do it. It takes place over two weekends: Sept. 19 & 20 and Sept. 26 & 27 between 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
KT sat down with WEST organizers Barbara Zuchowicz and David W. Jones for a chat about this special anniversary edition of the tour.
KT: How did you get involved with the West End Studio tour?
Barbara Zuchowicz: I was one of the people who was involved in the very first studio tour in Westboro, 21 years ago, which was called the Westboro Studio Tour. I was one of a group of artists who had studio space at St-Francois d’Assise, which became the Odawa Friendship Centre. I had studio space there, among a number of other artists, and we were told the building was being sold. So we decided that we loved working together, and we had to move elsewhere. Some found economical studio space elsewhere on Richmond Road and Churchill. The bunch of us decided to have a tour to mark this move. We started this little tour, with limited numbers. We said, let’s keep it simple, and if it continues, great.
What do you want people to know about the studio tour?
BZ: It’s a very friendly, welcoming group of artists who invite you into their studios to see demonstrations, to meet them, to see and buy their art. It’s absolutely suitable for all ages. And we think it’s really important that people have the opportunity to contact artists and learn more about visual arts. We are very friendly! And we love to talk about our art.
What can people expect to see?
BZ: I’ll be working on a drawing. I love landscapes and I really love drawing domestic objects. I think there’s incredible beauty in the very simple objects that we have around us every day. For example, a teapot sitting on the stove. I love the light. I love to paint homemade jams and jellies because it’s not something we have to do, but it’s incredibly beautiful and there’s this fantastic tradition associated with them. These are things we do out of love, and there is so much love in them. They are stunning objects.
I like to pause and encourage other people to pause and enjoy the beauty of very simple things in their lives. There’s great beauty if you slow down and look.
It seems like visitors will find lots of great art on the tour and maybe some insights as well?
BZ: That’s what art is. It’s a person’s perspective on the world.
What does this event mean for the local art scene and the community?
David W. Jones: I believe in making art accessible, and that doesn’t just mean to own it, but it also means to see art. This kind of tour is open to anybody. I really like it when families come in with their children. Because there can be the stigma that when you go into an art gallery you’re going to be under pressure to buy something. Maybe you’re out of your element, and not comfortable. Maybe you’ve never been in an art gallery before! What I like about [the studio tour] – and why I’m still doing it after 20 years – is that it demystifies the whole experience of going to look at art.
I’m lucky to be in a venue with a ramp. It’s good for people in wheelchairs and with baby strollers too. I like to take the time to talk to children so they know that this is a friendly place. This is really important, I think, for everybody, and not just for me. It’s important to raise the next generation to be comfortable with the arts – all four disciplines. They might buy art, or purchase a ticket to a show, or take up an instrument, if we make the arts more accessible to them.
BZ: Creating art can be an isolating endeavor. The tour is a meaningful way for the artists to feel like they are part of the community as well.
DJ: When you are showing in an art gallery and your work is on display, unless it’s a vernissage and you happen to be there, you don’t get to talk to people who are looking at your artwork. And this is a rare occasion in which people can look at your artwork and ask questions to the artist as well.
BZ: And when you’re the artist, you get to see other people’s perspectives on your work. And you learn things about your own work – a fresh perspective – and it’s a very stimulating experience talking to other people.
How is the studio tour marking this special anniversary?
BZ: On the 17th of September we’re having a vernissage at Thyme and Again. It’s going to be between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Exposure Gallery upstairs at Thyme & Again. Sheila Whyte was very gracious; we have a period of ten days from September 17 to the last day of the tour – the 29th. The name of the show is “20 by 20 for 20.” All the works are 20” x 20” and it’s for the 20th anniversary of the tour. Everyone is invited!
Looking for more info about the participating artists? Check out the official website at westendstudiotour.ca. You can also poke around the KT archives and read these past profiles: