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A New Chapter for Open Studios
NewsTannery Arts CenterOpen Studios
onMarch 8, 2024

By Ami Davis, Development Director

You may have heard that changes are coming to Open Studios, the beloved annual Santa Cruz County visual art tour. Every October, lime green signs advertising over 300 artists point the way to artists’ studios free and open to all.

Open Studios Director Ann Ostermann has been at the event's helm for nearly two decades. Ann is planning her transition into retirement this year, and the 2024 Open Studios will be her last tour (though we know she’ll be a visitor for years to come). To carry the program forward, we’ll hire someone to shadow Ann through her final tour as director this spring. I sat down with Ann and Arts Council Santa Cruz County’s Executive Director, Jim Brown, to chat about what’s on the horizon.

How has Open Studios had an impact on Santa Cruz County?

Jim: Under Ann’s leadership, our Open Studios Art Tour has become a model nationwide. It’s also an economic engine in our community. According to our latest Arts and Economic Prosperity Study, Santa Cruz County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $68 million in economic activity in 2022. We estimate that each Tour generates about $1 million in revenue from artwork sales, bolstering artists’ income and Santa Cruz County’s creative economy.

Ann: Working with artists has been a real joy. From those just getting started to the seasoned pros, I’ve felt like a den mother of sorts, caring for and guiding them as they readied for the Tour. I’ve made many friends over the years. It’s been a labor of love, for sure. The tools we provide through Open Studios help local artists launch and sustain their art businesses and gain broader recognition, a win-win for our region’s arts community. We’ve just launched the artist application for 2024, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will be part of this year’s tour!

What does the future of Open Studios look like?

Jim: We’re exploring new ways to promote Open Studios and Santa Cruz County as a destination for cultural tourism. We’re also always looking for ways to broaden our reach to include diverse and emerging artists. This year, we’re talking with Pajaro Valley Arts about curating an additional Open Studios Preview Exhibit in Watsonville. Beyond Open Studios we’re partnering with a team of artisans to present a Mercado Artesanal in September.

Ann: We’ve just posted a job opening for my successor, and the goal is to hire someone to shadow me for at least six months. This lucky person will become the new face of the program, and continue to help nurture emerging and experienced working artists. They will learn all my tricks of the trade and come up with exciting new ideas of their own!

How can our community of art lovers support this effort?

Jim: As Open Studios enters this transformative year, we’ve launched the Open Studios Transition Fund to honor Ann’s 20+ years at the Arts Council and ensure the program’s continued growth and sustainability. With community support, we will raise $50,000 to keep our momentum going and chart a path for the future of Open Studios. Local artists and supporters Jon and Carolyn Auman, John Crawford, Andrea London, Kerry Veenstra, the Vizzusi Family Fund, and an anonymous donor will multiply the impact of every contribution through matching gifts totaling $25,000. And of course, our sponsors Sutter Health and Santa Cruz County Bank are back for another year. We’re so grateful for their generous support during this phase of transformation and growth. You too can support this effort by donating any amount meaningful to you!

Ann: Another way to support Open Studios is to keep visiting artists and buying their work. Pick up an Artist Guide when it comes out in September and explore something new. Stay tuned as the artist lineup for 2024 is announced.

I look forward to seeing you in the studios!