Studio tour canceled, but artists are hardly idle

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WILLIAMSVILLE — Like so many other arts organizations in the region and around the world, Southern Vermont's Rock River Artists (RRA) has taken the regrettable but careful step: Its 2020 RRA open studio tour is canceled.

A collective of nearly 20 artists working in the villages of South Newfane, Williamsville and Newfane, Rock River Artists' Open Studio Tour has been a draw for visitors from throughout New England and beyond for 27 years. In studios tucked away in the woods, at waters' edge, with mountain views, in village propers, these artists and craftsmen of Southern Vermont have offered visitors an insider's look at a range of work from thread on fabric to pottery, inlay jewelry to painting, fine woodworking to photography, sculpture to collage. This year, though, given concerns around the spread of COVID-19, the collective is taking what is proving to be a revitalizing hiatus.

"This is a poignant moment for the Rock River Artists," photographer and Rock River Artists' co-founder Christine Triebert reflects. "Since our inception in 1993, we've hosted a top-notch group exhibit and studio tour every third weekend in July. Canceling this year was a difficult decision, but one we felt necessary due to the public health crisis. Even though our work spaces are temporarily closed to the public," she adds, "we are all still actively working and thankful to have the tools of our respective crafts readily available in our home studios. As artists, we've always known the intrinsic value of making objects of beauty by hand on a daily basis - a value that was also upheld by visitors who'd often comment that they view artists as an enviable lot who get to work from home and use creativity as their driving life force."

Long-time RRA member and fine woodworker Dan Dewalt adds, "In a strange way, the coronavirus crisis has given us a chance to do something that has been unthinkable for years for most of us: we have a (forced) opportunity to reflect on our work and our values without the distraction of shows, gigs or audiences. Granted, shows, gigs and audiences are our lifeblood, but sometimes blood becomes anemic and needs a boost. Isolation gives us a chance to self-criticize more deeply than normal, and it gives us a chance to take bigger chances and longer detours and to explore hidden corners of our creativity that our 21st century lifestyle has obfuscated until now."

Triebert conjectures: "For many, the pursuit of art seemed an impossibility given their other responsibilities and time constraints. But now, during this social isolation season, we are truly all in the same boat - and creative home projects are flourishing --they're becoming a sustaining force for many who are homebound."

Though visitors can't rub elbows with the RRA in groups this season, they should know that many RRA artists and craftspeople welcome individual visitors by appointment, wearing masks. Check rockriverartists.com for a list of those artists and contact numbers for each. It is there, too, that followers can witness Rock River Artists' new works. As RRA potter Diane Echlin urges, "We'll miss our July tour visitors, but we look forward to staying connected through these trying times, and we especially look forward to seeing you in our studios again in 2021."

Among the Rock River Artists are: Ellen Darrow, pottery; Dan Dewalt, custom furniture; Diane Echlin, functional stoneware; C. Peter Erickson, paintings; Chris Ericson, furniture and jewelry; Richard Foye, raku pottery; Georgie, oil paintings; Richard Gillis, wrought iron work; John Long, weathered wood sculpture; Steven Meyer, paintings; Gianna Robinson, paintings; Carol Ross, functional pottery; Roger Sandes, paintings and prints; Deidre Scherer, thread on fabric; Matthew Tell, pottery; Christine Triebert, photography; T. Breeze Verdant, inlay jewelry from recycled materials; Mary Welsh, collage.

Rock River Artists are hardly idle.

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