Tour of studios puts artists’ techniques on display

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By Sara Miller

An artist’s space can tell so much. Do they work at home, or do they share a space with another artist? That toppling wooden chair that you love in an artist’s latest oil painting? Does it sit welcomingly in the corner of her studio — bathed in sunlight that streams in from the north? These are all questions that will be answered this weekend at the eighth annual Open Door Studios Tour in Evergreen.

The tour was created to celebrate the diversity and vitality of the visual artists scattered throughout the Evergreen area. On Sept. 19 and 20, more than 30 area artists will open their studios to the public for the weekend. These studios are spaces full of color and imagination and offer a glimpse into the techniques, inspiration and process of our local artists.

For Roland McEldowney, a photographer who has lived in Evergreen since 1976, 2009 marks his fourth year on the Open Door Tour.

“Open Door is by far my favorite show that takes place in Evergreen,” says McEldowney. “I set up both of my cameras in the studio. Everyone is always interested in the reason that I still shoot with film and not digitally. Open Door gives me the opportunity to explain my process for both black-and-white and color photography.”

McEldowney’s career began as a geologist. He traveled all over the western United States, Mexico and much of western Africa in uranium and gold exploration. McEldowney spent much of his free time in Africa taking photographs, primarily of indigenous tribal members.

“I was just a kid from Boston who had never really been out of the state of Massachusetts much,” says McEldowney. “I suddenly found myself in Africa surrounded by these amazing people and colors and wildlife. When I returned to the States, there was a gallery owner in Denver who encouraged me to show my photographs from Africa.”

Although McEldowney’s life as a geologist is in the past, it is obvious from the way he describes his subjects that his work is influenced by his geological roots.

“I’ve had a lot of calls about the photograph that I have hanging at the bank for the tour’s preview. I call it ‘Herding the Churras.’ It’s a photograph of a Navajo woman on horseback. She is herding her sheep in front of the Ear of the Wind Arch. You can just feel the strength of the rock formations juxtaposed with the peacefulness of this woman out with her flock. The colors are fantastic,” says McEldowney.

Samples of McEldowney’s and the rest of the artists’ work will be at the pre-tour display at Evergreen National Bank. A complimentary opening reception will take place there on Friday, Sept. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. All of the artists will be present that night to discuss their work.

Even more interesting, though, is the peek into the artists’ private studios that takes place over the course of the two-day event. Tour attendees can pick up books with maps of the route at restaurants, coffee shops and galleries throughout Evergreen. The tour map can also be downloaded from the Open Door Studios Tour website at www.evergreenopendoorstudios.com.

Using the tour book and following roadside signs, visitors will easily find their way to each studio. All of the studios will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19-20. Children are welcome, and some of the artists have even been known to have activities to get the kids involved.

For more information, call 303-674-2598 or visit www.evergreenopendoorstudios.com.

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.