Vermont Open Studio Weekend | Various Vermont locations | Art Events | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Art Events

Vermont Open Studio Weekend

When: Sat., May 28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., May 29, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 2022

Martha Fitch was there at the beginning: a “chief organizer,” as she put it, of the Vermont Crafts Council in 1990. The nonprofit’s first director was Charley Dooley (founder of Craftproducers), but Fitch took over about a year later. ‘I’ve been the director for 31 years,” she said. “I keep joking that I missed my chance to move on to another job.” But it’s a job she’s apparently loved. And this Saturday and Sunday, she’ll have yet another milestone to celebrate: the 30th anniversary of Vermont Open Studio Weekend. The crafts council was just two years old when it launched the annual event to promote professional artisans scattered around the state. Back then, the only way for them to access a market was through a gallery or craft fair, Fitch observed in a phone call. And yet, the “big five” crafts — clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood — were underrepresented or nonexistent in art galleries at the time. The point of establishing the crafts council “was out of a desire to bring the high-quality work of Vermont craftspeople to the public,” Fitch said. The point of Open Studio Weekend was to bring the public to the artisans. The idea was that potential patrons, locals and tourists alike, could see not only the work but where and how it’s made. They could also talk to the artisans, whom Fitch called “intelligent, friendly, gracious people willing to share what they do.” The tour would be free and self-guided. It still is. But three decades ago, the internet and smartphones and GPS did not yet exist. In rural Vermont, some roads did not even have signs. Finding an artist’s studio might require stopping at a general store for directions. Of course, that’s still a thing in some parts of this broadband-challenged state. But now studio-hoppers can download a map or just refer to the website en route. Either way, yellow wayfinder signs help tourists reach their destinations. Fitch noted that the craft council used the fallow period of the pandemic to update its site. New this year are 14 “loop tours” — compilations of all the participating artisans in each region of the state. “In the past we resisted that because we didn’t want to get in the way of people designing their own tour,” Fitch said. “But they can still do that.” Not long after Open Studio Weekend began, Fitch said, fine artists wanted to participate. Now virtually every art form is represented, as are a number of galleries. In 2011, the crafts council introduced a fall weekend tour; unfortunately, Tropical Storm Irene made the event a wash, literally, for some parts of the state. Since then, Fitch said, “the only time we’ve canceled [the event] was spring and fall 2020.” She’s pleased at the number of venues this year — 150 — and the opportunities for artisans to show and sell their work, and perhaps inspire others. “When I find out people became an artist because of attending Open Studio,” Fitch said, “it just makes me feel so good.”