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Long Beach artists to showcase studios during ‘October is Arts Month’

Open-studio tour will take place over three weekends and feature about 70 artists.

A+ceramic+artwork+by+Tina+Burnight%2C+assistant+organizer+of+the+Long+Beach+Open+Studio+Tour+and+one+of+its+featured+artists
A ceramic artwork by Tina Burnight, assistant organizer of the Long Beach Open Studio Tour and one of its featured artists

A ceramic artwork by Tina Burnight, assistant organizer of the Long Beach Open Studio Tour and one of its featured artists

Courtesy Tina Burnight at lbopenstudiotour.com

Courtesy Tina Burnight at lbopenstudiotour.com

A ceramic artwork by Tina Burnight, assistant organizer of the Long Beach Open Studio Tour and one of its featured artists

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For the first time in nine years of organizing her annual Long Beach Open Studio Tour, Lisa Wibroe has to spread it out over three weekends in October.

“I had gotten some complaints that people couldn’t make all the studios in one weekend,” Wibroe told the Signal Tribune. “So, now, we’ve got three weekends going on.”

Tina Burnight, assistant organizer, said that the free tour has traditionally taken place during the second weekend of October– in conjunction with Long Beach’s October is Arts Month and with National Arts and Humanities Month– but this year will continue into the third and fourth weekends of October, as well.

Artists with studios west of Cherry Avenue will open their spaces the weekend of Oct. 13 and 14, with those east of Cherry Avenue opening the following weekend of Oct. 20 and 21. Artists who have committed to opening their studios a second time will do so on the final weekend of the tour, Oct. 27 and 28.

About 70 artists are participating in the tour this year, in about 46 studios, with a number of artists sharing collective studio spaces, according to the organizers.

The number of participants has increased each year since the first time Wibroe began the initiative in 2009, when it showcased about 20 studios with a grant from the nonprofit Knight Foundation.

Courtesy Lisa Wibroe at lbopenstudiotour.com
Lisa Wibroe, organizer of the Long Beach Open Studio Tour and one of its featured artists, pictured with one of her artworks.

Since then, Wibroe and Burnight have applied for micro-grants from the Arts Council for Long Beach to provide most of their funding.

“Every year, so far, we have been able to get one,” Burnight said. “And that helps. It doesn’t pay for everything, but it definitely does help.”

For her ongoing efforts, the Arts Council for Long Beach will present Wibroe with its Creative Economy Leader award during its State of the Arts event on Oct. 12 at the Expo Arts Center in Bixby Knolls, according to an Oct. 3 announcement via email by Griselda Suarez, executive director of the Arts Council.

“It is a gift to the city, from my perspective, every year,” Wibroe said of her initiative. “It’s the biggest event of Arts Month.”

Though Burnight said she manages many of the details of putting the event together, including updating the artists’ bios and art images on the event website, the tour is Wibroe’s vision, and she is the one who finds the artists and vets their work and studios.

“I seek out people and […] contact them and set up appointments to see their studios and their work,” Wibroe said. “It is a lot of work, and it does take us all year to put it together and try to get artists. I call it ‘herding cats.’ […] Everybody’s studio is different. You never know what you’re going to see. I do vet out each place personally.”

Burnight said that ensuring safety and access is also a concern in the vetting process.

“We want to make sure the access for people is safe,” she said. “We want to make sure people aren’t going to be tripping over anything.”

The tour’s main purpose is to increase the community’s awareness of local artists, since their studios are sometimes hidden in plain sight, Burnight said.

“We want to show the residents of Long Beach that they have artists right in their neighborhood,” Burnight said. “They could have an artist two doors down from their home and not even know it. So, we want to let people know that artists live and work amongst them. We want to give artists an opportunity to show their work to their communities.”

The organizers also want artists to find each other and collaborate.

“We want artists to meet other artists, as well,” Burnight said. “We would really like to show other cities that Long Beach has quality art.”

To promote the tour, the pair provides brochures to participating artists to distribute to friends, neighbors, family and local businesses. Artists also get identifying signs to place in front of their studios.

Wibroe said it’s hard to estimate how much traffic studios will get, since artists track visitors separately and the tour will now be spread over three weekends. In previous years, individual studios have hosted more than 100 visitors, with some coming from nearby cities, such as Palos Verdes, Huntington Beach and Claremont.

“There’s actually a lot of walkability,” Wibroe said of the tour. “But the artists are happy with opening up the studios and having a good showing– people coming in and being interested in who’s in their neighborhood and what they’re creating and what it’s like to be an artist and see the art in their own space, as opposed to a gallery that’s curated by someone else. So, it’s got a lot of things going for it that are different than a regular show.”

Despite the work involved, Wibroe said she has fun, since it fits with her ethos of promoting art. After graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a fine-arts degree, Wibroe encouraged fellow artists in the program to participate in the tour and also actively seek out new artists. She also curates art in local restaurants.

“I’m always moving art into community,” she said. “And that’s the big push here– I’m really trying to connect the community and art supporters with the artists. And also connect artists with other artists.”

Both Wibroe and Burnight are artists themselves and will be opening their shared studio on the first and third weekends. Theirs will also be among the studios that offer live music– Wibroe’s husband’s band will play, as well as members of Burnight’s ukulele club.

“We think that music and art go together really, really well, so we encourage [studios] to do that, but that’s completely up to the individual artist,” Burnight said.

To kick off the tour, Wibroe and Burnight are gathering participant artists together at the Hellada Art Center at 117 Linden Ave. on Oct. 6 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, something they do each year.

“We get all the artists together, and we kind of party together and invite people to come,” Wibroe said. “It’s a way for them to get collaborations going.”

Wibroe said she hopes the public will also attend the kickoff at Hellada in advance of the tour.

“People can get a sneak peek,” Wibroe said. “We’ll have artists putting up one piece of work, and they’ll be there to talk to people and talk to each other.”

A tour map and artist information for the Long Beach Open Studio Tour, which begins Oct. 13, is available at lbopenstudiotour.com.

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