Person of the Week
Eder Shares Shoreline Arts Trail ‘20 Virtual Open Studios
With enthusiastic assistance from artist Eileen Eder, Shoreline Arts Trail (SAT) ‘20 Virtual Open Studios is currently at the fingertips of art lovers as an online gallery sharing unique works to view and purchase now through Thursday, Dec. 31 at shorelineartstrail.com. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Eder )
A sampling of artists’ works found among those of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios include this piece by Eileen Eder, Beach Access (Hammonnassett State Park) 10 x 20, oil on linen panel, $1,500. )
A sampling of artists’ works found among those of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios include this piece by Lisa Hesselgrave, Pink Steel, oil on panel, 24 X 30, $2,200. )
A sampling of artists’ works found among those of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios include this piece by Linda Westgard, Shino Urn, with traditional Shino glaze and wood ash (stoneware), 10.5 x 7”, $75. )
A sampling of artists’ works found among those of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios include this piece by Christine Chiocchio, Autumn Descent, 11” x 15,” photograph, $250. )
A sampling of artists’ works found among those of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios include this piece by Anne Coffey, A Crack in Everything, acrylic, collage, crayon on paper, mounted on board, 11”x11” $300. )
A sampling of artists’ works found among those of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios include this piece by Steve Plaziak, River Sunset, watercolor, 10 x 14, $275. )
With enthusiastic assistance from artist Eileen Eder, Shoreline Arts Trail (SAT) ‘20 Virtual Open Studios is currently at the fingertips of art lovers as an online gallery sharing unique works to view and purchase now through Thursday, Dec. 31 at shorelineartstrail.com.
While COVID-19 moved the event online this year, in the spirit of past open studios, artists of SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios can also be visited safely, by appointment, at their Branford, Guilford, or Madison studios.
Now in its 20th year, SAT Open Studios usually draws hundreds to visit upwards of 40 juried artists at open shoreline studios over one November weekend. This year, 26 juried artists took up Eileen’s invitation to join the virtual Open Studios program, which opened on Nov. 1.
All-volunteer SAT usually gets to work organizing the popular Open Studios program early in the year, says Eileen, who co-chairs the SAT board with shoreline artist and SAT webmaster Steve Plaziak.
“We have a small board of volunteers, and in a normal year, everyone does a little or a lot of something,” she says.
Eileen, Plaziak, and several other artists, including Linda Westgard and Christine Chiocchio, are among those at the tip of the spear, from organizing the annual call to artists and jurists to otherwise implementing all of the elements of the Open Studios program.
“We start in January and go through to the event in November. It’s a big, yearly event—it’s much more work than you would ever guess,” says Eileen. “What is good for the public to know is, that if they go around to see these artists, they’ve been juried in. So you’re getting good quality professional artists and artisans, and we do like having a big range. It’s visual arts, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, paper—all kinds of art.”
For her part, Eileen usually takes on the work of developing the exquisite, oversized, and information-packed Open Studios brochure.
“Once we have our artists, then we go on to collecting images and information and producing a brochure, which in these days is almost like an old-fashioned item. But people seem to quite like it,” says Eileen.
In addition to pinning the location of each studio, the brochure incorporates notes on each artist and an image of their wares to be found during Open Studios weekend. Eileen has built the annual brochure since first joining SAT 15 years ago, when she moved to Guilford from Woodbridge.
“It’s one of those things when you look at something and see something needs to be done and you mention it, you get the job,” says Eileen, laughing. “When [SAT Open Studios] started there was a small piece of advertising that went out and I thought it could be developed into a much better, more beautiful brochure. And everyone agreed, and we went from there.”
The Bright Side
Despite the pandemic, Eileen has found a bright side in the work that went into developing SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios: the amazing ability to digitally display a gallery of gorgeous images, built from an incredible collection of beautiful and unique artwork, and provide the public with instant, easy access to these artists.
Looking back, Eileen says the idea to pivot from the traditional Open Studios to a virtual program probably began forming in her mind in early 2020, as SAT’s ramp-up to build a traditional 2020 Open Studios program began to hit several COVID-19 speed bumps due to closings and protocols.
As an SAT Open Studios artist who has regularly opened her Guilford studio to the public in past years, Eileen says, “I have had anywhere between 200 and 300 people come through my studio in that two-day event. So that’s why it was impossible to do it this year. But it’s something that I’ve really been grateful for, that people were willing to come out and support this whole artisan event.
“It’s one thing to buy things, but just to show up and be interested in what they’re doing and how they’re making and what their process is, that’s really encouraging for artists to know that what they do is of interest to people,” she adds.
While she knew things would have be different this year, Eileen also knew that, as they say, the show must go on. She thanks non-profit Artspace New Haven for encouraging her to develop the SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios online program.
“Artspace New Haven does a gigantic, city-wide open studios event,” which went virtual for 2020, says Eileen, who is also an Artspace New Haven board member. “So I contacted the person who did their event, and I sort of tapped into their experience, and we got a terrific online software program to load all the information up.”
In September, Eileen contacted SAT’s pool of Open Studios artists and artisans and pitched the idea of joining a virtual event for 2020. While some decided to wait until the traditional event could return in 2021, a group of 26 artists were delighted to take the digital plunge.
Working with the SAT board, Eileen gathered a budget and got to work building the virtual Open Studios gallery in early October. With a bit of a wry note in her voice, she says the hours of work which went into creating the virtual program wasn’t quite as time consuming as the effort to reel in the spectacular images and other information each artist shares.
“Artists are a little bit like herding cats, but they’re worth it,” says Eileen. “I love the diversity. There’s really something for every style and taste.”
The resulting (and quite breathtaking) click-through virtual Open Studios at shorelineartstrail.com is a show-stopping collection of unique art in virtually all mediums. The site offers a beautifully curated sampling of images, prices, artists’ bios and websites, and the opportunity to make a purchase through online contact—or to make an individual appointment to visit the artist in person (following COVID-19 safety protocols).
“People can buy the art they see directly from the image . They can just contact the artist by phone or email; they don’t have to make an appointment at all. It is meant to be a little bit of an online store,” says Eileen.
Sharing in the Spirit of Open Studios
Keeping SAT Open Studios up and running as a virtual offering through Dec. 31 is also a chance to keep the spirit of the program, and the artists supported by it, alive, especially when COVID-19 has clamped down on some of the regular avenues available to people in the market for original works of art, says Eileen.
“A lot of artists are just fine and are financially okay, but I’m also very conscious of people who are really struggling,” she says. “And I think I also wanted to keep the SAT group on people’s minds, to let them know we haven’t disappeared.”
The expanded Open Studios timeline this year also provides a great opportunity to find a last-minute, unique holiday gift, or to gift yourself with a lasting piece of art that can enhance your life or your home, Eileen says.
“Art in a house makes the house so much richer, so much more interesting and enjoyable,” says Eileen. “Especially if it’s unique, handmade art, as opposed to something that’s mass-produced. And if it’s by some local artist, it’s even more special.”
In fact, in this time of COVID, “people are investing into improving their homes in different ways,” she points out. “And what could be more amazing than having a new painting on your wall? And that affects children as well. I think we all recall growing up with certain paintings on the wall that are visual images forever. So having something that is well done and local is really giving yourself a huge gift.”
It’s also a great investment, whether its supporting a promising artist or gathering an original work from one of the group’s award-winning professionals, including those with some very prestigious national recognition beside their names, such as Eileen.
A contemporary realist oil painter for more than 20 years, Eileen’s an instructor at Lyme Academy of Fine Arts and the Lyme Art Association and a frequent award winner both locally and nationally, with work featured in American Artist and Plein Air magazines.
“There are a few of us that already have national recognition, and so the value will never go down,” says Eileen of the investment to be made in some of the Open Studios wonderful works of art.
But don’t wait too long. After Dec. 31, SAT ‘20 Virtual Open Studios will close, and the SAT website will revert back to its regular format. That means time is of the essence for anyone who hasn’t taken a moment to make a virtual visit to shorelineartstrail.com.
“If people haven’t treated themselves this holiday, or their house, they still can go shopping, even at the last minute,” says Eileen.
View some of the artists’ works as photos published with this story at www.zip06.com.