November 28, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 32

Art journey - Fourth annual Slightly West of Spokane Artists Studio Tour this Saturday

Artists featured range in styles from paintings to pottery to woodwork

Cheney-area artists Janet Wilbanks and Judy McKeehan hope they're on a roll when it comes to this Saturday's Slightly West of Spokane Artists Studio Tour – at least as far as weather is concerned.

John McCallum
Janet Wilbanks (left) and Judy McKeehan show a couple of their pieces to be displayed this weekend at the Slightly West of Spokane Artists Studio Tour.

After a major, early-season snowfall hampered the tour's debut in 2010, the annual artists' showcase has enjoyed nice, sunny if crisp November weather the past two years, helping attendance greatly. But even that first challenge in 2010 didn't keep art patrons and others from enjoying some of the finest artists this side of Spokane.

The fourth annual tour features 15 artists showing works in a variety of mediums ranging from pottery to woodwork to photography and paintings. In fact, Wilbanks advises those planning on taking part, or doing so at the last minute, to hit all seven studios along the route running down SR 902 through Medical Lake, over the interstate to Salnave Road and finally into Cheney.

"There's a lot to see and there's a lot to miss if they didn't," Wilbanks said.

One reason to hit all seven locations (a map of which can be viewed online at the city of Cheney's website or on brochures at the Cheney Free Press) is a new feature this year – gift certificates. Wilbanks said patrons who get a card - available at the first studio they stop at - stamped at all seven locations are eligible to enter a drawing for two, $50 gift certificates that go towards the purchase of a local tour artist's work.

"There will be a stamp at each studio," Wilbanks said. "Pick up a card and get it stamped at all seven. Then enter by dropping it off at the last stop."

Also new is a QR code stamp on the map that can be scanned and used with Google Maps to help guide patrons on the tour.

There will be a lot to choose from too on the tour that runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday. New this year are Lowell Simonsen, who works at the Eastern Washington University Bookstore and specializes in woodturning, as well as Sandra Hickman, whose work features art reproductions done on silk.

And those reproductions aren't just any old piece of artwork either. Wilbanks said Hickman's husband was an architect who, after suffering a stroke, switched from doing precise line drawings to abstract art. When he passed away, Hickman began scanning his work into her computer and now incorporates both the line drawings and abstract paintings, sometimes combined, onto silk.

Besides producing fine bowls and vases, Simonsen also wood turns "funky little trees" and other figures. His appearance marks the return to the tour of an artist who specializes in woodwork.

"We had a wood turner the first two years," Wilbanks said. "That's nice to have back in our show."

Returning after a two-year absence is painter Lola Phar, working in original oils and watercolors. The show also features painting and pottery works by Dennis Smith, who was instrumental in getting the first tour off the ground, along with polymer clay and fabric coiled baskets artist Diane Spano.

Others include Donna Kulibert (stoneware and pottery), Jim Everman (arts, crafts and cigar box guitars), Adam and Kathy Scoggin (pottery and garden statues), Michelle Schneider (stoneware), Joe Neuss (photography), RS Yourke (digital painting) and Ben (watercolor, acrylic and graphite) and Jeanie (polymer clay eggs, vases and jewelry) Wolen.

Both Wilbanks and McKeehan will also have works on display, with Wilbanks working in oils and mixed media and McKeehan in watercolor and color pencil drawings. All of the artists will have pieces for sale, but Wilbanks and McKeehan cautioned tour goers that it's not an arts and crafts-type show.

"A lot of us do crafts as fine art," McKeehan said. "We just don't show it in this tour."

Light refreshments will be served at the stops, and artists are ready to answer questions about their work or how they go about producing their pieces. Wilbanks said they estimate between 100-150 people take part in the tour, although that's tough to gauge, and hopes they see that, if not more, this Saturday – as well as good weather.

"It really shows that there is a place for art in our community," Wilbanks said.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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