An artist’s studio is a pragmatic, yet magical place. It’s a place where work gets done and inspiration strikes – sometimes by force, sometimes by magic. It’s not every day that artists invite people – let alone the public – into these places, but certain artists will do so during the Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl. This annual crawl, now in its 13th year, takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving and offers the public a chance to see behind the creative curtain.
The crawl began in 2007 with four artists: Lynn Gilchrist, Pat Olson, Rick Risch and Liz Maltman. They opened up their home studios, which were all located in Sturgeon Bay, to give the public a chance to see their artistic process on display with finished works and works-in-progress in the spaces where they create. In addition to seeing their studios, attendees had a chance to purchase some work. Twelve years on, their mission is largely the same, but the scope has grown.
Since 2007, the crawl has steadily grown, and this year it features 25 artists. In the first crawl, all of the artists were painters; now multiple media are represented. Part of this growth is due to the engagement of the artists. Debra Stroh-Larson, vice chair of the Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl, said, “The crawl has changed each year with additions of new, talented artists. They offer new experiences and ideas, adding to the friendships we create.”
With more engagement, the planning process begins in January of every year, and more time is spent on developing promotional materials and splitting up organizational duties within a committee.
Stroh-Larson has been with the crawl since its second year. She said, “I am inspired to create new artwork throughout the year for this event. It brings people out to meet artists in their working studios to see and talk about the process they use. It’s fun when kids are interested in art and they ask questions, and I get to ask them questions about what they want to work with.”
Reaching out to younger artists is another part of the crawl that motivates the participating artists who give a donation to a young-artist mentorship program. Stroh-Larson said, “Mentoring a few young artists in the community offers opportunities for students who may not have a chance to develop their art skills.”
Of the 25 participating artists, six are “brand-new-to-the-crawl artists,” according to Gilchrist, who still has a hand in organizing the event and is still a featured artist. The new artists range in age and experience. They are Prisca Benson-Fittshur (ceramics), Mike Judy (painting), Kollin Orthober (woodworking), Monica Ramirez (painting), Melissa Resch (painting) and Stella Rogers (mixed media).
Of the four artists who started the crawl, Gilchrist and Olson are still participating. The remaining artists who are featured are musician Hans Christian; ceramicists Liz Butler, Jeanne Demers and Linda Sheard; woodworker Michael Doerr; painters Pam Flanders, Karen Hertz-Sumnicht, Margaret Lockwood, Kristi Roenning, Mac Schueppert, Barbara Shakal, Deb Stroh-Larson and Kerry Vavra; painter and weaver Sandra and Wence Martinez; jeweler Kim Pedler; and photographer Nancy Prange.
Most of the home studios and galleries where the artists are showing are within downtown Sturgeon Bay, but a few are outside city limits. Seeing numerous artists within a few hours will highlight the amount of creative energy buzzing around Sturgeon Bay.
A new space will also make its debut for the crawl: It’s the SWY event space next to Third Avenue Playhouse that was formerly the Door County Advocate office. On Friday, Nov. 22, 5-7 pm, the public is invited to a kickoff party. Refreshments will be served, and attendees can check out the artwork of Kerry Vavra, Nancy Prange and Mike Judy in the space. It’s a chance for the public and artists to come together in a party-like atmosphere. Stroh-Larson said, “It’s a feeling of bringing the community together in the spirit of the holiday season.”
The Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl will take place Nov. 22-24, 10 am – 4 pm. The opening reception will be held Friday, Nov. 22, 5-7 pm, at SWY, 231 N. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. For more information and a map of venues, go to sturgeonbayartcrawl.com or find “Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl” on Facebook.
In typical Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl style, a “Doerr” prize will be awarded at the close. Crawl visitors may sign up once at each location to enter to win the prize, and the winner will be chosen from the sign-up slips. The winner does not need to be present to win. This year’s prize is a wooden bread-and-cheese board that was handcrafted by woodworker and crawl artist Michael Doerr. The piece doubles as a functional cutting board and sculptural art. (It comes with a wall-mounted hanger for display.)