- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - While you may not be able to visit Santa’s workshop at the North Pole this Christmas, a group of local artists will be offering the next best thing - a visit to the studios of some of the area’s most creative minds.

Like Santa’s elves, 21 Mississippi and Louisiana artists and two visiting artists are busy painting, molding, hammering and putting together works of art that will be shown Saturday in 11 studios in Natchez and the surrounding area.

“It’s like one giant gallery hop,” local artist Sarah Carey said.

Carey who is a painter, printmaker and clay artist is also the president of the Natchez Artist Association, one of the organizations supporting the event.

“When Conner Burns contacted us and discussed the idea, we thought it was great idea,” Carey said.

A local potter, Burns said he has always wanted to do a studio tour, where people can visit the personal creative environments of local artists.

“People just enjoy seeing the process of making art,” Burns said. “By visiting the studios, you get to see the finished artwork in the creative space where it was made, which gives you a greater depth and understanding of the artwork.”

Natchez furniture maker Adam Gwin agrees.

“I think people who are interested in art are interested in knowing artists,” Gwin said. “When you visit the artist in their studio you make a connection. I think people who are interested in art, are interested in making that connection.”

Gwin said he has participated in previous tours with much success.

“The first year I opened my shop, I had an overwhelming response,” Gwin said. “People had no idea how I worked.”

Gwin said visitors especially loved the aroma of fresh cut wood, shellac and turpentine.

“People would come in and say, ‘I love how this place smells,’” Gwin said. “(The smell of the studio) is the one thing they can’t get in a gallery.”

That personal experience is part of the beauty of the studio tour, Burns said.

“You get to visit places you wouldn’t be able to see any other time of the year,” Burns said.

Everything from painting and sculpture to furniture and photography will be on display. Each of the 11 studios will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Tour admission is free, but artwork will be on sale at each location.

“It is a true open house event,” Burns said.

Many artists plan to offer holiday sweets, appetizers and drinks. Some studios will also provide creative activities for children while their parents enjoy talking to the artists and viewing the art on display.

Posters showing examples of the art that will be displayed along with a map of the studio locations are available at the Natchez Art Association headquarters and the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, Burns said.

Throughout December, one piece of art from every artist will be on display in the Natchez Art Association Gallery.

“It will allow people to go there first and then choose which studio they want to visit,” Burns said.

Burns said one of the goals of the tour is to attract visitors from as far away as Jackson and Baton Rouge.

The Mississippi Department of Tourism and the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau have been helping promote the event on billboards and other signage, Burns said.

“We need and appreciate our local support, but we also want to reach into the region more,” Burns said. “With 23 artists displaying their work, it gives people more of a reason to visit Natchez.”

Burns said plans for next year’s studio tour are already being made. He hopes that more artists will join and be a part of a bigger event in 2015.

“Our goal is to do this every year,” Burns said.

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Information from: The Natchez Democrat, https://www.natchezdemocrat.com/


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