Artist Studio Tour In Todos Santos

Not to be confused with studio tour in Los Barriles. Different town, different experience
BY: MARLA KING

Can a pueblo numbering a mere 6,500 residents support some 14 plus art galleries and dozens of professional artists? It can...if it’s Todos Santos.

Painters, sculptors and all manner of visual artists have been finding inspiration in the tiny town for decades, and 45 of them will be opening their studio to the public to show off what makes the area so special. The 10th annual Todos Santos Open Studio Tour is set for February 8 to 10 this year. It’s in support of The Palapa Society. And the artists, of course.

One participating studio is actually a collective of six women, known as the “Thursday Artists”. They started creating together more than five years ago when friends asked to join Marsha Dahlquist as she painted “en plein air”, in the outdoors.

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Thursday Artists (left to right) Roxanne Sparks, Susan Doyle, Penny Robertson, Marsha Dahlquist, Janna Kinkade and Ruth Asercion at their holiday art show with their collaborative painting

“I told them I can’t teach because I was still learning myself,” she explains. “And it just morphed into this group that painted together, and coalesced to our six.”

Dahlquist, Susan Doyle, Ruth Asercion, Janna Kinkade, Penny Robertson, and Roxanne Sparks meet every Thursday morning at Dahlquist’s home in the Las Tunas neighborhood to work on their latest pieces.

“There’s lots of talking and encouragement about what we’re working on,” says Robertson. “It’s not necessarily about technical support but emotional.”

Though they create together, the ladies’ styles and mediums are vastly different. Some design surreal images and Mexican iconography in mixed media while others’ works are more representational. Asercion builds intricate glass mosaics. The group recently held their fourth annual holiday show and sale at Mango Gallery and raffled off a collaborative art piece in which each artist contributed a panel. They are creating another such collective work for the Open Studio Tour, with raffle ticket sales going to support Solo Para Ayudar, a local organization helping seniors in need. Last year, their raffle netted $800 US for the charity.

Dahlquist’s home, with all six of the Thursday artists present, will be one of the many stops during this year’s Open Studio Tour. For $15 US, participants get a wristband and a map showing where all the studios are. Yes, you drive yourself around at your own pace. The $15 gets you access to all of the artists’ studios during the two days of February 9 and 10 from 10 am - 4 pm. For you working stiffs, that’s a Saturday and Sunday.

This year organizers have also added a sneak peak wine and cheese event at the Palapa Learning Center on Friday, February 8 from 6 to 8. Tickets for this event are $10. “All proceeds from ticket sales have always benefited the children's art programs at The Palapa Society of Todos Santos,” explains participating artist Anne Hebebrand.

The Open Studio Tour was originally organized in 2010 by an informal group of artists and art lovers known as Artists of Todos Santos (ARTS).  “We have always been dedicated to the development and support of a vibrant, inclusive arts community,” says Hebebrand. “Among the earliest artists involved were Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz, Diane Knight, Vic Kirby, Michael Mc Allister, Steve Thurston, Tori Sepulveda, and Roxanne Sparks, most of whom remain actively engaged and thriving in their artistic endeavors in Todos Santos today.”

Now 10 years later, the range of artists participating in the Open Studio Tour include painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramicists, encaustic and cold wax artists, jewelers, printmakers, mixed media artists, woodworkers and more. Their studios are as uniquely different as their type of craft. Some are well-established, others are more improvised or temporary, while some expand into the outdoors or are entirely outside. Emerging artists as well as those who have been working professionally for many years are represented.

“What is truly unique about the tour is the opportunity to visit the artist’s working studio, which is a completely different experience from viewing their work in a formal gallery setting,” Jamie Sechrist, this year’s organizer explains. “You get to connect with the artist, see the tools of the trade to learn about their working process, and ask questions.”

When asked why so many artists flock to the Todos Santos region, Hebebrand has an explanation. “So many have been influenced by many or all of the elements of the setting - the Sonoran desert landscape, the vast and dynamic ocean, the majestic Sierra de La Laguna, the distinctive quality of light and air and clouds. And essential to all artists who have made Todos Santos their home is a pervasive, almost tangible, sense of artistic community.”

For more information on the Todos Santos Open Studio Tour and to purchase tickets online, visit todossantosopenstudio.org. The website also includes biographies and art examples from all participating artists. Tour tickets are also available at El Tecolote bookstore in on the main street of Todos Santos during the month of January.