Artist Lorry Stone puts some finishing touches on a painting. Stone will open her studio in Landers for all three October weekends of the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY HIGHWAY 62 OPEN STUDIO ART TOURS
You’ve likely read stories about how the coronavirus pandemic proved to people that they don’t have to live where they work. Moving suddenly became much more attractive, even in the art world.
Expect to see work you haven’t seen before when the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours returns with 165 artists showing their wares over three weekends starting Oct. 9-10, and continuing Oct. 16-17 and Oct. 23-24. An opening night party is slated at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Joshua Tree Art Gallery.
The pandemic created an opportunity to relocate for not just the traditional laborer that works remotely, but artists whose homes serve as their studio. “I think that we're having 46 percent new artists who have moved out to the desert, because of the pandemic presumably,” Hercia says. “I think it is going to be really interesting because we have a whole lot of new blood out here. Each artist is going to bring their own fan base to share with the rest.”
For 20 years, Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours has opened the studios of artists to the public to see up close how their creativity comes to fruition and ask questions. Hercia agrees the event cements the High Desert as an artists’ haven, and yet each of the eight-participating communities has their own identity.
“There is not much crossover,” she says. “It’s a little tribal. People exist within their own bubbles. But during the art tours everybody is cheering each other on; this is the one thing that brings everybody together.”
And after last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic, coming back with a safe version of the event reenergizes that connection between the artists and the public. “It's significant that we get to connect with other people again,” Hercia says.
Hercia recommends visitors use the app that will be released soon on the event website. There is also a digital catalog on the website that lists each artist, what weekend(s) they are showing, and the location of their studio. “We're hoping that the app is going to help people be able to categorize and sort out which studios they'd like to visit,” she says. “People can sort the artists and create their own tour with the app.”
For a deeper dive on the origins of the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours, Palm Springs Life spoke with Chuck Caplinger, co-founder of the event.
When you started the Art Tour 20 years ago, what was the idea behind it?
To create a regional arts organization that included all the artists and all the artistic disciplines. Michael Callan called me back in January 2001 to talk with me about starting an organization. Along with several friends of mine we consequently met and agreed to start the organization that we called Morongo Basin Cultural Art Council.
Within 11 months, we had our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. I came up with a concept for an annual event in order to bring all of the art disciplines together. I called it Morongo Basin Desert Arts Festival. It was to be a 10-day event featuring one end of the basin, Twentynine Palms one weekend and the following weekend the Yucca Valley area. Of course, I wanted to encompass all the other little communities as well. That's what kicked it off. Huell Howser hosted the opening evening at his home here in Twentynine Palms. That was a big, big hit.
What difficulties did you face when creating the first tour? Was there one obstacle that you overcame that was very important to the event happening?
I don't recall there were any big obstacles because at the time the Morongo Basin was, or at least the east end was experiencing an arts renaissance. By 2001, they had already painted 16 murals in Twentynine Palms. There was a lot of enthusiasm, as well as a certain amount of national attention to that program.
How much planning was done before the project could take place for the first time?
I came up with the concept and I spent two weekends making notes and planning, planning, and planning. I brought it back to the board and we had three months from the conception to the event itself. I consider that as a little miracle, actually.
How many artists did you have that first year?
I think the first year we had 50 artists signed up. Then we had this event at Huell Howser's and ended up with over 70.
Was it difficult to find artists who would participate and open their studios?
No. Originally, the first three years, we looked for artists with legitimate studios that they would open up for the public. A lot of professional artists were willing to do that.
Did you think the Art Tours will last this long? What is the secret to lasting 20 years?
In order to answer that correctly, I would have to consider the new-found popularity of the Joshua Tree National Park in the last three to four, maybe five years. Young people have realized that the parks are not only a neat place to go, but the community of Joshua Tree is a cool place to go to. Joshua Tree is trending now. More and more people are relocating from Los Angeles, San Diego ,and San Francisco.
How has the art scene changed in the past 20 years?
We've been here 23 years now. There were only a handful of galleries in the whole basin, but there were organizations like the Twentynine Palms Artists’ Guild. That's been in existence since the early ‘50s (1951). That's what it was like when we moved here.
Earlier this year the first Coachella Valley Open Studios Tour began. How does it make you feel that an event you helped start is taking new forms elsewhere?
I think it's great. I think it's fantastic because artists need a voice. The one thing I still do is the quarterly artists gatherings, where people have a chance to gather in one particular place. Maybe listen to a little music, have a little bit to snack on, and interface with each other.