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Beach Studio Tour marks 20 years of celebrating local artists

This spring marks 20 years of Beach artists opening their home studios to the public, with the 21st Spring Beach Studio Tour set to take place this weekend, from May 2 to 4.

Weaver and clothing designer Lucille Crighton has been there for all 40 tours (including the annual fall tours). It’s been such a success for her that the Beach Studio Tour and the One Of A Kind Show are the only two events she takes part in every year.

Crighton said she is looking forward to yet another weekend of catching up with long-term clients and friends.

“The spring tour is like the rite of spring,” she said. “A lot of people come back again and again. I’ve built strong relationships with my customers because I’m interested in them, and they’re interested in how an artist works.”

Weaver and clothing designer Lucille Crighton stands in the midst of her colourful studio. Her Balsam Avenue home will be open to the public for the Beach Studio Tour from May 2 to 4. For the duration of the tour, she is sharing space in her house with photographer John Dowding and metal artist Tod Waring. PHOTO: Jon Muldoon

Weaver and clothing designer Lucille Crighton stands in the midst of her colourful studio. Her Balsam Avenue home will be open to the public for the Beach Studio Tour from May 2 to 4. For the duration of the tour, she is sharing space in her house with photographer John Dowding and metal artist Tod Waring.
PHOTO: Jon Muldoon

Those, in a nutshell, are the main reasons for the success of the tour, which is the longest-running studio tour in the city – the access to a creator’s workspace (most shared with visiting artists), combined with the relationships artists build with those who are touched by art.

“It’s such a beautiful way to connect with people, through the arts,” said current tour chair Nathalie Vachon. She has taken part in the tour for 10 years.

There are many who have been on the juried tour since the early years, a testament to its success – fine artist Dianne Shelton and photographer John Dowding have both been taking part since the second year.

Vachon, a painter and entertainer, immediately embraced the tour and local art scene when she returned to the Beach a decade ago.

“It was really the first call I made when we got an apartment in the Beach,” said Vachon. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s a great community of artists.”

Crighton organizes a pre-tour for the artists themselves. Usually artists are unable to leave their locations to check out the work of others on the tour, so the entire group of 24 artists travels together with 10-minute stops at each location on the Friday afternoon before the official tour begins.

The tour was founded in 1994 by Carolyn Barnett and Susan Macdonald.

Both have since moved away, though both take part in tours in their current hometowns. Barnett is returning as a visiting artist for the spring tour, sharing Roderick Mayne’s Kingswood Avenue location.

Crighton, who had already been organizing showings at her home with other artists, was happy to join in right from the start.

“When Carolyn started the tour it was great, because everything wasn’t just on my shoulders,” she said.

While she speaks to visitors about her work on the main floor during the tour, she enlists friends to give tours of her looms and work rooms upstairs.

“If I’m not selling, I’m educating people,” said Crighton, who said she sometimes misses teaching, which she’s done throughout the US and here in Ontario.

“I loved seeing the light bulbs go off when people got it,” she said. However, “I found I couldn’t divide my time between teaching and weaving.”

Vachon has also embraced the organizational side – she joined the executive committee six years ago. She said organizers are constantly looking to improve the tour for both artists and art lovers. This year the website (beachstudiotour.ca) received a full overhaul, along with the design of the map and promotional materials.

“Every year we try to do something new,” she said.

To help celebrate the 20th birthday, a party was held in April. During the speeches, Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue mentioned that artists are the soul of a community, which really summed up the importance of the tour for Vachon.

“It’s such an honour when something you create speaks to somebody on a powerful and deep level,” she said.

The sharing of studios with artists from outside the Beach area also adds some great variety, said Vachon.

“The art we create is influenced by our surroundings and our stories, so it’s great to have others come bring their stories,” she said.

And for art lovers or those simply curious about home art studios, the tour is not only a great way to access local artists, but a great neighbourhood to traverse while moving from one studio to the next.

“We have such an incredible backdrop for that,” said Vachon.

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