Philadelphia Open Studio Tours began with 13 artists in 1999. The event series has grown so much that the city has been split into quadrants, each with its own day dedicated to tours. Art lovers can visit participating artists that intrigue them. Or, artist Gina Michaels points out that this is a great educational opportunity to find new creations and creators. She has been opening her studio every year since 2000.
“For the first few years, people were really hesitant and would tentatively look around,” Michaels says. “Now, people just march right in.”
Michaels is a sculptor who casts bronze. She primarily works with French Green Sand, utilizing the most ancient form of the art. She is a printmaker in addition to her sculpting work. All her work revolves around the same theme: capturing the livelihood and movement of plants. She discovered this theme entirely by accident, in addition to the art form itself.
“I put my hands in the sand and they poured the bronze in,” Michaels says. “I looked at them and thought they looked like a spiritual language. I get strength in these elongated forms because I’m working directly in the metal.”
Michaels and her husband, artist John N. Phillips, will open their Germantown studio (located at 5535 Lena St.) to the public. The 10,000 square foot former sheet metal shop is now the hub for their artistry. In addition to showcasing their own work, they invited artist Alice Thompson to share their space for the studio tour.
The artists act as their own hosts and event planners for the studio tours. Some will do demonstrations of their medium for the visitors. Others will have a lecture, and some aim to have more of a party atmosphere. Either way, the goal is to have an immersive experience for the visitors that is far less formal than a typical gallery setting.
“It’s very artist driven,” says Julia Fox, of the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. “This creates a level of intimacy that you just wouldn’t normally get. There isn’t any curating or guide for it. It’s open ended."
The studio tours are spread out over four days, one for each city quadrant.
Oct. 7: South
Oct. 8: Northeast
Oct. 14: Northwest
Oct. 15: West
If you go:
Philadelphia Open Studio Tours
Oct. 7-Oct. 15