Altadena, CA – January 6, 2017

A neighborhood activist and an organization that promotes and supports local artists were named as Citizen and Business of the Year for 2016 by the Altadena Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association.

Business Of The Year:

Open Studios Alta/Pasa/Dena:
The Artists Next Door

It’s appropriate that Altadena, a longtime home for artists, has an arts organization as its 2016 Business of the Year.

For the past three years, Open Studios Alta/Pasa/Dena has opened up the artistic treasure of Altadena and northern Pasadena to the wider community.  Two weekends a year, Open Studios holds a free self-guided public tour where area artists share their studios and their art.

The event has blossomed — the first weekend in December 2013 had 16 artists in four locations. The most recent tour, in December 2016, included 50 artists in 24 locations.  The 2016 summer show had 76 artists participating, and there is a mailing list of more than 100 artists.

It all started small in 2004:  Mary Gothard, a local textile artist and photographer, and her husband Patrick, a prolific painter, opened up their Altadena home studio to public tour as a way to promote their art.  Pleased with the result, they continued to open up their studio twice a year, and invited other artists to show.

Mary Gothard says the current version of Open Studios was born in discussions with co-founder Ginkgo Lee, a local ceramicist and graphic designer.  They wanted to make the event bigger, to attract more people and more participating artists.

“When we first started it, it was to introduce artists to the community where we all work and play,” Gothard said.  “That way neighbors can know neighbors, friends can know friends, and artists can get together with like-minded folks.”

“The whole project came out at the inspiration of Patrick’s studio, to make it a party,” Ginko Lee said.  “You have food, conversation, something delicious on the stovetop. The visitor doesn’t feel like they’re in a strict environment — it’s not about ‘hush, hush,’ they’re not afraid to ask questions.”

On an Open Studios weekend, dozens of artists open their workplaces to visitors of all ages.  Most studios are joined by guest artists, who also show their work. Visitors can pick up a guidebook and map that with the studio locations.  And of course you can purchase the art.

As it has grown, Mary Gothard said, “Before, everyone was doing everything, but now we have an admin team, promotion team, development, artist liaison … and it’s all volunteer, nobody’s paid.”

To help it succeed and prepare for growth, Mary Gothard says they are working to become a 501(c)3 corporation (Open Studios is currently a sole proprietorship with Mary Gothard). They also count on relationships with other organizations in town, especially the library.

“We love Open Studios and have a great partnership,” said Mindy Kittay, Altadena Library director. The Library has held opening receptions for the weekend and displays art from Open Studios artists. “The library itself is about the experiences and opportunities,” Kittay said.  “We provide the community with access to art that they might not normally see.”

Mary Gothard said that several local businesses also needed to be thanked for offering early support and showing Open Studios’ artwork: Sidewalk Cafe HTS, Hoopla!, Perry’s Joint, Merge Frames, and Pizza of Venice.

Open Studio’s mission is to create a good experience for the artist as well as the public: the artist’s fee is $100 per show, but can be reduced to $50 if they volunteer during the show.  “We don’t turn artists away if they can’t pay,” Gothard said.  “We work it out, we get sponsorships, and people are more and more interested in advertising in the brochure.”

Open Studios is growing its community presence.  It hosted booths at the Altadena Guild’s 2016 Home Tour and the National Night Out, and are looking to participate in more community events.  Once the 501(c)3 designation comes through, they will start community-oriented arts programs, Gothard said.

Promoting creative work with friendly, down-home, everybody-welcome attitude — Open Studios represents the best of Altadena.  The Open Studios experience lives up to its motto: “Come curious, leave inspired.”