I made the effort to experience all four weekends of the Long Beach Open Studio Tour (LBOST) this year, an endeavor that was richly rewarded. This is the first year that the LBOST happened over four weekends, each weekend focusing on a certain area/neighborhood of Long Beach, and from most artist and visitor accounts this seemed to be a welcome innovation. As a visitor I certainly appreciated it, as it allowed me to be more leisurely and not have to rush about in an effort to try and see as much as I could in one or two weekends. Most artists I talked to felt there was actually more traffic this year overall, which was great news. The following are the studios I visited; I didn’t get to visit nearly as many as I would’ve liked, but hey, life.
First Weekend Oct 5 & 6: Zaferia/Eastside Studios
My first stop was the Artist Co-Op studios at 1330 Gladys. It’s a great one to hit, as it allows you to see a bunch of great artists in one stop (Katie Stubblefield, Sarah Soward, Juan Gomez, Eric Leffler, Eric Almanza, Donivan Fox, Angelica Fegley, Karen McCreary, Chris Smith, and John Hillis Sanders). There was so much to see and hobnobbing to do, however, I ended up spending more time here than planned and was only able to go to Cody Lusby’s studio after. I was especially interested in visiting Cody’s space as it coincided with his “Roses for Rose Park” alley mural project right behind his place. It’s such a great community project—really shows how art can bring people together.
Second Weekend Oct 12 & 13: Cal Heights/Bixby Studios
The only artist I knew in this area was Kathryn Heaton, so I started with her, and luckily she was showing with several other artists at woodworking master Joe Devinny’s house (ceramics artist Nora Chen and jewelry artist Vicky Williams were also there). I thought this was a great idea, using a spacious backyard as a “mini-festival” to showcase more than one artist. Another ceramic artist Billy Mitchell was just down the street, and I hit up sculptor Susan Erikson Hawkins’ beautiful backyard studio on the recommendation of Thor Carlson, whom I had met though a mutual friend just a few days prior. It’s all about networking!
Third Weekend Oct 19 & 20: Wrigley Studios
I started off at Dave Clark’s studio, who had a very cool sculpture garden going in his driveway. Just around the corner was Lisa Wibroe and Tina Burnight’s place, where they had a live band playing, making for a very festive atmosphere. Speaking of festive, the painter Joseph Corso had a real wood-burning pizza oven turning out some amazing-looking pizzas, to go along with his fantastic paintings. My final stop of the day was at Lance Morris’ garage studio, where his new laser printer was hard at work on some designs on wood panels—very cool to see that in action.
Fourth Weekend Oct 26 & 27: Belmont Heights/Shore Studios
I’ve lived in Belmont Heights for nine years, and of course The Galaxy Towers is a huge landmark in the area, but I’d never been inside. By visiting painter Vivian Chen and sculptor David Hennage’s 14th floor home studio, I finally got to take in the breathtaking views from the tower. Beautiful work in a stunning setting. Sin Confections was very close by so I headed there next, and I must admit, when I saw it on the list I didn’t know what to expect. Would it truly qualify as art? What I saw and tasted was an unequivocal yes and an absolute delight. Next I headed over a few blocks to see the works of Annie Clavel (abstract paintings) and Maureen Vastardis (photography and watercolors). My final stop was, appropriately, the LB Creative Group Gallery on Broadway, where they had the work of various LBOST artists on display.
The tour enabled me to get a glimpse of just how many great artists are in this town. It was also eye-opening to see the variety of working environments—from professional artist studio complexes to spare bedrooms to garages and everything in between. Art can happen anywhere, and artists are great at making do with what they’ve got. It was great to visit artists already familiar to me, but it was especially rewarding to get acquainted with new artists. I also got to pick up several pieces of art that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see otherwise. I’m already looking forward to LBOST 2020!