Experience Art in the Beauty of Sedona

Writer Lynette Carrington
Photography by Mike Upp

Each year, the Sedona Visual Artists’ Coalition invites guests from across Arizona to visit stops on the Spring Open Studios Tour, which provides a unique opportunity for guests to visit artists in their studios. For the first time in 15 years, the tour will encompass three days of artistic insight and excitement April 27 through 29.

The free event has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception, and each year more art aficionados and collectors are able to take part in the self-guided tour that includes Sedona, Cornville, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Clarkdale and Oak Creek.

The tour, presented by the Sedona Visual Artists’ Coalition (SVAC), began with a handful of artists and has now expanded to include 67 artists in 42 studios. Clay artist Mike Upp and painter Julie Ronning Talbot are board members of the SVAC. They have co-chaired the Sedona Artists Coalition Spring Open Studios Tour for the last six of its 15-year history.

“For the visitor, the Open Studios experience invites the artwork to speak much more intimately to them as it provides an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the creative process,” explained Upp, who also heads up Earth and Fire Ceramic Design along with his wife, Sharon Upp.

Over the course of the three-day Open Studios tour, visitors will step into the artists’ world and discover what inspires them and how they work. In addition to creating art, artists answer guests’ questions and provide a first-hand look into their creative processes. Artists included in the tour create in a variety of media including clay, glass, paint, digital art, jewelry, fiber, weaving, mixed media, photography and much more.

“I really believe in the business model. It’s doing the studio tour like the winery model,” Upp said. “Years ago, you’d go to Napa Valley and wine tasting wasn’t that big of a deal. Now, it’s a big business. The wineries recognize the opportunity to sell to the public and to get direct feedback. Ours is really the same model.”

Upp continued, “To me, this is so much better than packing up all of our art and taking it to Valley art festivals. On the customer side, it gives them the chance to get inside of a working studio. I believe in the aspect of helping people better understand how art is created, and in my instance, that would be ceramics.”

Upp enjoys showing guests that often something that sounds simple, like adding a handle to a mug or pitcher, is actually a lengthy and involved process that takes a lot of skill.

“About 35-40 percent of people who visit the studios are repeat visitors,” Upp explained. “The people who return are definitely shoppers and collectors. Some people are buying gifts and some people buy so many of our ceramics, I’m not sure what they’re doing with all of it!”

Some guests are art collectors seeking out artists, and other guests are those who find the information online or in Sedona and visit because they are curious about the Open Studios tour.

Upp added, “Some people stop and may not buy anything at our studio, but they might buy something at a studio up the road. Sometimes, they get inspired.”

Brochures with a map and list of participating artists will be available in locations throughout Verde Valley, as well as at the Sedona Arts Center and the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in Uptown Sedona. For a complete list of participating studios and a map, visit sedonaartistscoalition.org.

The thrill of getting to meet an artist and see them working in their own environment often creates unique relationships. The personal experience of bonding with an artist also helps to inspire people who become art collectors.

“The wide range of style, quality and art forms is a testament to the thriving vitality of the arts community in Sedona and the beautiful Verde Valley,” Upp said. “This is the excitement of helping people gain a deeper understanding of producing art. A lot of artists feel the same way.”

The Sedona Visual Artists’ Coalition is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational and charitable organization that welcomes artists of all levels and encourages creativity, community and camaraderie. Membership benefits include artwork promotion on the non-profit’s website, bi-monthly event announcements in its newsletter, opportunities to show art, social events, networking and the opportunity to participate in Open Studios tours.

Spring Sedona Open

Studios Tour

Friday–Sunday, April 27–29

Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday noon–5 p.m.

Locations available online



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