By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Doors normally closed tight are swinging wide open during Norman Open Studios, an event inviting the public into the private studios of Norman artists.
The second annual event, presented by the Norman Arts Council May 10-11, allows a peek into the creative processes behind Norman’s art community. Norman Arts Council Executive Director Erinn Gavaghan said the day is a whirlwind of insight.
“I think the really cool thing about Open Studios is people are walking into the space that artists are making their work. If you go to a gallery, you’re not seeing the creative process happening,” she said. “A lot of times it really gives the visitor a much deeper connection with a work of art, if they’re seeing it being made, and they talk to the artist about what their process is, about what their ideas are behind the work, the subject matter.”
A total of 27 artists are participating at 14 different locations throughout Norman. The National Weather Center Biennale is also a part of the event.
This year’s participating artists include: Todd Jenkins, Adam Stewart, Bill Boettcher, Sue Schofield, Almira Hill Grammer, Yvonne Evans, Craig Swan, Richard McKown, Douglas Shaw Elder, eight students from College Prep Program at Firehouse, Laura Reese, Suzanne Varughese, Hunter Roth, Skip Hill, Michael Ashby, Lindsey Martin, Aimee Rook, Shana “Rebelline” Brown, Patta LT and Dennis Butcher.
Gavaghan said the artists represent a wide range of skill levels — from just starting out to professional — as well as mediums and materials, including various sculpture materials, various paints, graphite, photography and more.
Studio spaces are located throughout the city, Gavaghan said, and come in various shapes and sizes. Some studios are formal spaces in separate properties, while others make studios in their homes — maybe an extra room or a work shed.
“That’s one of the really cool things about this is to see the different types of places where artists do their art, whether its their garage or their basement or their kitchen,” she said.
For Hunter Roth, Norman artist, his creative processes flourish in a small structure set up in his backyard. Though this renaissance man is formally trained in sculpture from Louisiana State University, he now dabbles in almost every artistic medium.
“I’m like Prince. You can just call me an artist at this point,” he said, laughing. “I’ve started pursuing this whole music thing and of course I’m a sculpture, I’m a furniture man, I’m a painter, I’m a printmaker. I feel like I have so many labels, it’s like, ‘No, I’m going to be just an artist.’”
When visitors come to Roth’s studio they can expect to see the wide-range of his work, including furniture in his home, metal sculptures dotting the property, various paintings hanging on walls and possibly even hear a sampling of his most recent project, a one-man band dubbed Quilted Cherry Podium.
A self-taught musician, Roth’s music setup is a drum buddy, a light-activated oscillating drum machine, paired with an omnichord, an electronic musical instrument. He built the instruments in to a podium he constructed himself. The sound is majestic and reminiscent of retro video games. Roth describes it as “weird-o music.”
No matter the medium, Roth doesn’t take himself too seriously. He wants viewers in his studio to recognize that art can be fun and accessible.
“Art doesn’t have to be stale and boring,” he said. “It can be fun and colorful.”
Adam Stewart, Norman artist who recently completed a piece for the Norman Public Arts Board duck sculpture project, develops his mixed media work in a converted garage next to his home.
For Stewart, he said the open studios event allows him to demystify the art-making process for his visitors. It’s not often the public gets the chance to see first hand how and where a creative process takes place.
“With the studio tours people can come in and see the space and see what you’re surrounded with,” he said. “When I put pieces up on the wall in a gallery people don’t know about all those tapes on my desk, nobody knows that you have the music on, that you have your skateboard stuff, that you have all these little artifacts.”
As a mixed media artist Stewart finds inspiration in whatever surrounds him. He hopes taking a step into his studio will encourage visitors to consider their own creative process.
“I want people to see that they can do their own thing wherever that is,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about working in multiple media. And that’s from the wood to the metal to the canvas to the plaster stuff around here, and there’s charcoal drawings and there’s all these things.”
Norman printmaker Laura Reese said she also hopes visitors gain confidence in starting a studio of their own if they’re interested.
“I am a young professional, and with very little overhead and investment, I created my own space to work out of in my home. It took me only a few months to create my set up for my studio,” Reese said. “Even if you don’t have all of the things you ‘need’ for a studio — for instance, I’m still lacking a press — you can still have one. For years my studio space was my bed, which is very unhealthy, mentally and physically, but I still created. There’s no reason you can’t have a studio.”
For more information on Norman Open Studios visit normanarts.org.