Paul Fortis, Santa Cruz County artist painting a landscape with pastels
Paul Fortis, painting a landscape with pastels
(Arts Council Santa Cruz County)
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Open Studios returns! Arts Council Santa Cruz County invites the public back inside for a 2021 revival

Open Studios is back with dates (and look out for an announcement of the 2021 Open Studio Artists!) Despite the pandemic, Arts Council Santa Cruz County continues to grow the Visual Arts Network, a virtual network to support the local artist community.

Arts Council Santa Cruz County is thrilled to announce the return of the Open Studios Art Tour! This year will include the biggest freshman class of artists in the tour’s history. The Arts Council will be taking all necessary precautions to ensure the community’s safety. They are excited to invite the public back into artists’ studios. As one Open Studio artist, Melinda Vahradian expressed, it is “a nudge towards normal, a delightful nudge.”

For the Arts Council, the fate of the 2020 Open Studios was anything but normal. It was early April 2020, and the Arts Council called a committee meeting to discuss the fate of the upcoming Tour. Open Studios has been a unique staple in the community since 1986. Imagining Santa Cruz without an Open Studios was almost too much for the committee to bear. Ann Ostermann, Open Studios and Events Director, who was about to put on her 18th production of the tour, describes her decision to cancel the 2020 Open Studios as “gut-wrenching.” “I was devastated knowing that this resource to the artists and the community would be unavailable.” Even so, Ostermann knew that she still had a dedicated and creative team with resources to create something of value for the community and local artists.

Within days of canceling Open Studios, ideas of a curated virtual directory of Santa Cruz artists and their work started to form. Thus the Visual Arts Network was born.

“This curated directory is what I like to call a ‘Safety Net.’ A place where artists can display their artwork and a place where the community can find them year-round,”

— Ann Ostermann, Open Studios and Events Director,

It filled the considerable gap left by the canceled Open Studios. Unlike Open Studios, where artists are juried in each year, the directory is open to all local artists year-round who can be searched by name, medium, location, etc.

Himani Natu, making jewelry
Himani Natu, making jewelry
(Arts Council Santa Cruz County)

Ostermann and her team partnered with Digital NEST, a local non-profit with the mission to “connect youth to a skill-building community that transforms them into professionals who can create successful careers, innovative solutions, and prosperous communities.” The Arts Council also partnered with a UCSC web design class linking web design students and artists creating pages for the directory.

Artist Bev Zerbib-Berda recounted that the UCSC student “brought many very creative suggestions to help me make choices about presentation.” Zerbib-Berda’s artwork is displayed on her Visual Arts Network page. Zerbib-Berda states that “of course, visiting an artist studio in person will always be the best way to connect to the arts, but the Visual Arts Network gives that online presence that will draw people back out to the studios.”

Stacy Frank, making a print
Stacy Frank, making a print
(Arts Council Santa Cruz County)

And that is precisely what the Arts Council hopes for, to provide many outlets for the Santa Cruz County community to connect with its artists. The Visual Arts Network website is a stand-alone project that will continue to house and help artists showcase their work.

The Visual Arts Network launch last November was the result of community support. As Ostermann shares, “The Visual Arts Network wouldn’t have been possible without Sutter Health and Santa Cruz County Bank. They shifted their sponsorship from Open Studios to the VAN and kept Santa Cruz County artists and the public connected during the pandemic!”

For more information on the upcoming Open Studios, please visit the Open Studios Website. If you are a local artist and would like to join the Visual Arts Network, click here!

The Open Studios Art Tour is your opportunity to explore creativity in Santa Cruz County. For 35 years, the Arts Council’s goal has been simple: connect artists with people who love art. For the first three weekends in October, artists from the redwoods to the bay open their studios so that friends, neighbors, and strangers from near and far can discover art in this stunning county.

Save the date! Open Studios Art Tour 2021

  • South County: Saturday - Sunday, October 2-3

  • North County: Saturday - Sunday, October 9-10

  • All County: Saturday - Sunday, October 16- 17