JOSHUA TREE — In its 18th year, the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours organizers are keeping some old favorites and have made some changes to the annual October arts extravaganza that brings people to the Morongo Basin from as far away as Canada.
The most significant change is the expansion of the tours from two to three weekends. With the number of artists on the tours and the time it takes to get to some of the studios, tour director Bill Green said, “It just made sense to expand to three weekends.”
Green is a board member with the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, which runs the tours.
The roster of artists opening their studios has also expanded. The 2018 event offered 150 artists and 96 studios.
This year the choices have grown to a record 204 artists and 126 studios, making Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours the second largest art event in the state behind the SF Open Studios event in San Francisco.
Tour goers will also notice changes to the tour catalogue. The design is being updated to reflect a retro vibe with the focus on the environment and studio life. There will be up to 70 individual artist profiles, giving visitors a more accurate, in-depth view of the broad range of artistic disciplines and artist demographics in the community.
Green also talked about new partnerships with local organizations. Mojave Desert Land Trust will be hosting Joshua Tree sculptor Ben Allanoff and there will be a meandering installation at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center created by Rolo Castillo, owner of Arttrap Gallery in Joshua Tree. The Glass Outhouse in Wonder Valley will also be part of the tours this year. All three of these venues will be open all three weekends.
Another new addition this year is a partnership with the nonprofit Keep A Breast Foundation, which raises money and spreads awareness about the importance of breast health through art. Nearly a dozen local women have been “breast cast” and those casts will be on display at Studio No. 57 during the final weekend of the tours, Oct. 19 and 20.
Get ready to see some new mediums on the tour like video, illustration, sound art and installation. Green is pretty excited about this.
“These new categories are not only a great way to ensure the tours continue to grow and attract wider age groups, but it also means there will be more options for everyone, from art novices to serious collectors,” Green said.
“It’s also not just about going out and looking at art, but building a sense of exploration and discovery in the desert, which is a big part of why people come.”
The tour map is being enhanced with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek desert vibe and will have a few surprises for tour goers.
There will also be some intriguing collaborations on social media. Check out the 2019 videos on the tours Facebook page, featuring some of the participating artists.
Participating artists pay a fee to be included in the tours and Green said it’s always important to ensure they receive value. In addition to the added third weekend and exposure in the catalogue, website and advertising, a number of free workshops are being offered to the participating artists. One will introduce social media or help them enhance their social media presence.
With so many more artists and studios, it might be hard for tour goers to narrow down which studios to visit. The council has thought of that too. Participating artists can place a representative piece of their work in the “Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours Collective Show” Sept. 28. The show will be held at two galleries: Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG) and Gallery 62. Expect close to 100 pieces of art at this exhibition — bring your catalog and make notes.