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Mark Your Calendar for Art Trails!

The 33rd annual Sonoma County Art Trails, the premier juried open studio tour, will take place during the second and third weekends of October. A juried art show means new artists are selected by a panel of art experts such as museum curators and gallery owners to participate in the event. This year, 18 new artists and 127 returning artists will participate in the program.

Last year, seven artists lost their homes in the wildfires. “Not only did they lose their homes, they lost their studios and their art the week before Art Trails,” says Jan Schultz, co-chair of the steering committee. “Five of those artists will be on sabbatical from Art Trails this year. However, two of those artists, Bill Gittins and
Chris Henry will be open during Art Trails in their new studios.”

Returning to Art Trails this year is meaningful for both Henry and Gittens. “It’s how I make my living,” says Henry. “Yes, my house and studio and art burned up, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work.” As for Gittens, the support from Art Trails in the aftermath helped him get back to painting and he’s grateful for the help. “The money I was able to get—a substantial amount—allowed me to buy canvases and paint and pay rent [for studio space]. And my friends encouraged me to get a brush in my hand,” he says. “People notice that my art is more colorful and brilliant since the firestorm.”

This year’s event promises to be significant for the community, too. “It’s the one-year anniversary of the firestorm, and a time of huge emotions,” adds Schultz. “Some people will be thrilled because the foundation is being poured for a new home, but others may still feel heartbreak.”

Art plays a significant role in helping a community to heal. “As Brooks Anderson [an Art Trails artist] once said to me, ‘Artists are the first responders for the soul.’ Artists are the informal historians, says Schultz, who works with metal. “We create from our own feelings. Artists capture that moment in time. Some artists have created art that captured the emotions and feelings from the fires; some artists graciously responded to people’s requests to use remnants from the fires to create art to start some healing for the impacted homeowners.”

Last year, following the firestorm, the steering committee had a tough decision—cancel Art Trails or postpone it.  They delayed it one week and the community embraced the event. “Several thousand visitors, many expressing their appreciation and gratitude for artists being open and providing their first step to normalcy and healing. And while sales were not typical, some people came to purchase a piece of art.

The Art Trails experience begins on Friday, Sept. 28, when the Sonoma County Preview Exhibit opens at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts from 6 to 8 p.m. Guests can preview the art from 145 artists, which includes painting, print-making, sculpture, ceramics, fiber arts, fine jewelry, art glass, mixed media, woodwork and photography. “We hope people will come out to Art Trails,” says Schultz. “Being surrounded by beautiful original art is comforting and inspiring, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find a wonderful piece of art that makes you smile.”

Art Trails is one of the oldest, longest running open studio tours in the United States. For more information, visit


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