Open Studios is a May rite of passage for Benicia. It’s a weekend when scores of the town’s artists open their doors to art lovers, buyers, collectors and anyone else who might wander by and want to have a look. Now in its 22nd year, the annual Benicia Artists Open Studios will take place May 7-8.
The Benicia Business Park that encompasses the former Benicia Arsenal is “Ground Zero” for the Benicia Artists Open Studios. The Arsenal is home to a large and vibrant arts community of locally, nationally and internationally acclaimed artists. Painters, sculptors, printmakers, installation artists and many others create their works in studios occupying the historic military buildings. The Benicia Arsenal is also home to the Arts Benicia gallery and its staff members who organize the event.
Open Studios allows people to step inside the doors of studio spaces and get a look at the private, creative world of Benicia artists. Besides the artist studios on Jackson and
Tyler streets in the Arsenal, visitors can go into the glass blowing studios on East H Street and East F Street and watch demonstrations of this art form, and also visit the many galleries on First Street. It’s a way to experience first-hand what Benicia’s art scene is all about. “It’s really such a great art community and all of the Arsenal artists, or most of them, are participating,” said Mary Shaw, Arts Benicia exhibition and programs manger. To help people get to all attractions, SolTrans will be operating a shuttle between the Arsenal and downtown, the glass blowing studios, and First Street.
Open Studios also is a way for artists to make connections with the public, with buyers and others who might be interested in showing work. Shaw stressed the event is not to promote Arts Benicia, but the artists themselves. Visitors are encouraged to begin their forays into more than 70 art studios at the Arts Benicia headquarters at 991 Tyler St. #114 where maps will be available. Further, an art exhibit containing a sample of each participating artist’s work will be available for viewing. The preview show opens in the gallery on April 23 and lasts through Open Studios weekend.
In breaking with past tradition, Arts Benicia has moved the event to the second weekend of May from the first weekend, to avoid conflict with other events around town. The move to Mother’s Day weekend will also allow some focused and cross-marketing opportunities, Shaw said. Typically, nearly 3,000 people visit artist studios over the two-day event, a number the organization expects to increase with the later date. The entire event is free. For more details, go to artsbenicia.org.
Susan Marcus Sachs and Molly Boggs