Bringing the Neighborhood Together with Pretzels, Beer, and Art

Have you ever spent ten hours of your weekend inviting strangers into your garage to hang out with you and stare at art? I have, along with five dozen other artists all across Long Beach.

The Long Beach Open Studio Tour just wrapped up its tenth year this October. It has grown into an impressive and wide-reaching event during that time, offering art lovers a rich overview of Long Beach’s impressive collection of visual artists.

This was my second year participating in the tour. Having attended in the past and scrambling to see as many studios as possible, this year’s arrangement was a welcome change—the city was split into four zones with each zone assigned a different weekend. This offered dedicated explorers a better chance at seeing as many studios as possible AND made the event far more walkable, a development I truly appreciated.

One thing I learned from my first year is that most visitors will breeze through, say hello, check out what you’re showing, eat a couple of pretzels, and be on their way. This changed a lot with the new setup. There were seven studios open during our weekend in Wrigley, so more people felt comfortable hanging out for longer than a few minutes. I made some new friends, talked about my techniques and inspiration extensively to lots of people, and connected with some people who were interested in laser cutting.

But the tour is so much more than just a means of networking. It helps to foster an appreciation of visual art and bring diverse artists and craftspeople together. My favorite groups were the ones who were clearly led out by one of their members who seemed to be dragging them from studio to studio saying “Check this out! This is so cool!” It was encouraging seeing their friends experience something new. So many other artists ventured out as well to see their cross-city contemporaries. I love inviting other artists into my space, comparing our experiences and sharing our opinions.

Hanging out in my garage with the smell of laser-produced campfire for so long definitely made me occasionally loopy. I had an accidental conversation about what makes an artist: is it hard work or some sort of innate divine talent? After some pontificating (perhaps pretentiously) on my part, the person I was talking to clarified “I mean how does someone get involved doing the Open Studio Tour.” I felt embarrassed, but that was a much simpler answer.

Image courtesy of Angela Villani

And while commerce is not necessarily the primary goal of the tour, it does give artists an opportunity to sell a wide variety of work and gives art appreciators a chance to snatch up something they may not have planned to own. For every print someone bought from me, five people bought keychains etched with cryptic map-based imagery. I am shameless when it comes to selling art, a trait that has only increased since acquiring a laser engraver.

I met people of every age, showed kids the magic of lasers, fed people pretzels and beer, and hopefully opened people’s minds to glowing fluorescent art. If you are an artist, I highly recommend participating. If you appreciate art and beautiful Southern California Fall weather, I highly recommend you attend.


This is a contributing post by Lance Morris, a Long Beach artist who walks his way into new creative ideas. You can learn more his work at LanceMorrisWalks.com

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1 Comment

  1. I definitely had fun at your studio–thanks Lance!

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