Twenty-three artists + 13 studios + two days = one colorful weekend.
The sixth annual Lakes Area Studio Hop takes place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., at various artists' studios in and around Willmar, Spicer and New London.
This year, hoppers can expect to see a mix of artwork ranging from oil paintings, wood carvings and photography to stained glass, jewelry and gas-fired pottery.
"There's a new experience in store for everyone," said Kristin Allen, co-chair of the event. "It's a chance for the public to see the creative spaces that the artists work in -- the dirt, the paint, the drip."
Studio Hop began in 2005 as a way for the public to meet local artists, tour their studios and view demonstrations. This year, the free event will feature 23 artists in 13 different studio locations.
"This event elevates and supports the creative people that live around us and among us," Allen said. "It just shows how many different kinds of creative folk there are in this community."
by Gregory Harp
One veteran artist to the hop this year is photographer Gregory Harp of New London, who has participated in the last three Studio Hops.
Harp began taking pictures at the age of 7, when his grandmother gave him a camera for his birthday. He's been studying photography ever since, but it wasn't until five or six years ago that he became interested in fine art photography.
"The secret to good photography is patience," Harp said. "To me, photography is very much like golf. It is extremely easy to do, but extremely difficult and complicated to master."
Much of Harp's work focuses on capturing the essence of Midwest landscapes. He's photographed scenes ranging from the golden sunset over Mill Pond in New London to the reddish, rugged terrain of the Badlands in South Dakota.
"(The Midwest) is a very pretty part of the country," Harp said. "It's a secret in some ways. When people think of fantastic pictures, they tend to think of places like the West Coast or the Grand Canyon. But fine art photography exists everywhere."
Harp said this belief challenged him to find photo opportunities in objects and scenery that many people take for granted on a daily basis. Some of his photos are of road signs, light fixtures and people's feet. One photo captures the image of a woman ordering food at McDonald's.
"My favorite photos are everyday scenes that everyone sees but nobody recognizes," Harp said, pointing to a picture he took of an old man fishing at Mill Pond. "I try to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. That's my challenge."
Harp's photography has been featured at the Glacial Ridge Winery in Spicer and The Barn Theatre Gallery in downtown Willmar. His photos have appeared on postcards for the Kandiyohi County Historical Society and in travel brochures for the state of Minnesota.
One of his biggest claims to fame, Harp said, are some shots he took of South Dakota's Mount Rushmore at night: Disney requested four of those photos for a YouTube ad promoting the movie "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets," starring Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger.
For Harp, participating in the hop allows him to meet other local artists and gain more exposure in the community.
"We have fabulously talented artists in this area," he said. "Much of the art on the hop is good or better than what you'll find anywhere. And for the artists, (the hop) is a chance for them to meet the community's patrons of the arts."
This weekend, Harp will be showing his work at Bill Gossman's pottery studio, along with Don Hanson and Paul and Denise Morris.
by Kari C.L. Weber
Another artist on the hop this year is Kari C.L. Weber of New London, whose acrylic and oil paintings are largely inspired by her early experiences in the flatlands of western North Dakota. Although she has lived in Minnesota for 12 years, Weber said she still finds inspiration in the memories from her childhood.
"When I tell people I paint flat landscapes, they ask why," said Weber, who is originally from Bismarck, N.D. "I like the idea of the horizon and showing depth on a flat surface. There's all that space. And colors you can see forever."
Weber, who also teaches high school art in the New London-Spicer district, finds she can be more expressive in her work by smearing and blurring paint rather than producing clean, straight lines.
"A good painting has to be original, it has to express something about the artist, and it should show craftsmanship," Weber said. "I always make things, but painting is the most fun for me. I can paint anything I want, however I want to do it."
Although it doesn't take Weber long to finish a painting -- a small painting might only take her a half-hour -- she begins with ideas and sketches that sometimes take years to materialize.
"I always know what I'm going to paint before I start," Weber said. "I work from memory, mostly, from places I've been 100 times."
Weber's paintings have been displayed in several galleries throughout Minnesota and North Dakota, and she has been a featured artist at Three Sisters Furnishings in New London, the Glacial Ridge Winery in Spicer and the Heritage Falls Market in New London. Most recently, Weber received a $1,200 scholarship to attend a week-long painting class through the University of Minnesota.
On the hop, Weber will be sharing studio space with Maria Chvatal, the New London-Spicer middle school art teacher.
Like Harp, Weber recognizes the opportunity Studio Hop gives local artists and the surrounding community.
"Artists tend to be secluded around here," Weber said. "Studio Hop allows us to show what we have. We have a great artist community here."
Similar to past years, Studio Hop will offer event-goers the chance to purchase some of the artists' original works. Both Weber and Harp will be among those who will have artwork available for sale this weekend.
The Studio Hop is funded in part by a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC) and is supported by the Willmar Area Community Foundation. The Willmar Area Arts Council puts on the event each year.
Selected works by all 23 artists are also on display at the Willmar Education and Arts Center gallery through June 30.
For a complete list of artists and studio locations, visit www.studiohop.org