20 years of open studio tours

Acrylic, watercolors, oil paintings, ink drawings, glass sculptures, metalwork, enamel, ceramics, pastels, jewelry, photography, felting, weaving and woodwork. North Tahoe-Truckee’s art scene is diverse. The public can soak in all of these art forms and more while getting up close and personal with the artists at this year’s annual ARTour.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, ARTour will take place from July 12 to 14 and 19 to 21. The signature event of North Tahoe Arts, ARTour is a self-guided open studio tour allowing the public to visit the studios and homes of many of the area’s prominent artists.


Cyclist welded from scrap metal  |  Pat Blide

Stretching from Incline Village to Tahoma and up through Truckee, this year’s event will showcase the work of 40 different artists. Unlike a traditional gallery showing, ARTour gives patrons, art-lovers and emerging artists the opportunity to interact with artists, experience their processes, see their studios and learn the story behind their artwork. ARTour is free to attend, and artists’ finished works are available to purchase.

New to the tour this year are scheduled art demonstrations. Nine different artists will demonstrate various techniques in their respective studios at scheduled times. While many artists work on projects as visitors meander through their studios, this is the first time a structured format has been put into place. Visitors will have the opportunity to plan their route according to what demonstrations they wish to attend throughout the weekend.


Rajastani Travelers  |  Randal Stauss 

One of the artists offering a scheduled demonstration is Randall Stauss, who will be showing oil painting techniques on the first Saturday of the tour. Stauss, a 13-year veteran of ARTour, will be doing a live figure painting at his Carnelian Bay studio. Focusing mainly on watercolors early in his career, Stauss began transitioning to oil paints about 15 years ago.

He observed the tour for several years before joining and says now he couldn’t imagine not doing it. Stauss looks forward to the interaction ARTour allows him with the public and the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Many artists sell pieces during the tour, as a result, the first couple days often provide a wider variety of work. However, Stauss finds that often visitors will resurface as clients a year or two later.

Among his exhibited works for this year’s ARTour will be a new rendition of his popular painting “Evening at Sandy Beach,” which he will be unveiling to the public for the first time. It depicts a mother and daughter enjoying a moment on the beach under dramatic evening light.

Like many Tahoe artists, Stauss finds much of his inspiration in nature. Whether he is in Tahoe, the Bay Area or an international destination, the outdoors has a great influence on his work.


Essence of the Creator  |  Cahty McClelland

Kings Beach painter and muralist Cathy McClelland also looks to her surroundings for inspiration.

“Living here in Tahoe, I walk my dogs every day and am always in awe of the beauty,” she said.

Tahoe scenes and wildlife often find their way into McClelland’s compositions, such as her painting “Full Moon over Mt. Tallac” and one of her personal favorites, “Sun Bear,” depicting a brown bear in a field of yellow sunflowers. Mystical and magical subjects also frequently appear in her paintings.

McClelland works primarily in acrylic using an airbrush for delicate shading, a technique she began using while working on various murals across the country, some as large as 1,500 square feet. While none of the pieces on display in her studio will be that large, she does usually have one painting that she works on continuously throughout the tour.

McClelland has been participating in ARTour since its inception in 1993 when it was just “an idea for a fundraiser for the art center and the artists, too.” She took a couple years off since then to attend the event as an “ARTour-ist” and found herself inspired by all the work she saw and artists she met along the way.

“I think it’s a good thing not only for the artists, but a good thing to keep going in our community,” she said. McClelland pointed out how it generates exposure for the artists, as well as exposing the public to a plethora of art.

Truckee mixed media artist Carle Sesko also was an early participant in ARTour, joining up the second year after being a visitor on the first tour. She credits ARTour, along with other art shows, as playing a role in making it possible for her to focus on art full time.

“I think it brings people together and shows people we have a very vibrant art scene in the Truckee area,” Sesko said.

Like McClelland and Stauss, one of her favorite parts of being on the tour is interacting with the tour-goers and creating a connection with the art and the artists that they could not get in a traditional gallery setting.


A New Day  |  Carole Sesko

Sesko also enjoys giving people the opportunity to tour her 1907 folk-Victorian cottage in historic downtown Truckee. She finished renovating it just weeks before the 2001 ARTour and calls the house her “largest art project.” This year, she has designed an art walk for guests leading them through her house and landscape displaying the collection she has created over the past year.

While Sesko considers acrylic paint her medium of choice, she is an experimental artist working with everything from metal to textiles, glass and wood. She often finds her artwork taking on a life of its own. From paintings to mobiles, Sesko will be exhibiting a wide variety of pieces in her home.

But long-time veterans are not the only ones opening their studios for ARTour. This year’s roster has 12 more artists than last year, a result of 2013 tour coordinator Carla Beebe’s efforts to make this the biggest ARTour to date. The result is new faces and new artwork for attendees.


Danakil  |  Ryan Salm

Tahoe City photographer Ryan Salm is looking forward to his first exhibit on the tour. He has friends who have participated in the past and likes the idea of setting up a gallery and not having to go anywhere. He will be transforming his Dollar Point home into a theater, of sorts, with an ongoing projection show of his cultural/world travel, landscape and action sports photography.

Like the other artists, Salm is hoping the event will provide him with additional exposure and the opportunity to meet new potential clients. In return, he will provide attendees with yet another chance to experience the prolific art of North Tahoe/Truckee.

“We are known for recreation and beauty, but we have some amazing art in this community,” Beebe said.

Top photograph:  Rainbow Rooster  |  Ying Muncy

Main page photograph:  Hidden Beach  |  Randal Stauss 

For more information, pick up a copy of the ARTour map with information on all of the participating artists, along with the schedule of artist demonstrations that are offered on every day of the tour. Maps are available online at, click on Online Tour Guide. For details, call (530) 581-2787. Maps also are available at local visitor centers, North Tahoe Arts Center, Steve Schmier Jewelry and James Harold Galleries in Tahoe City; Kings Beach Library and North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach; Bluebird Design and Bourgeois Interior Design in Incline Village; Mountain Hardware, Tom Beebe, Artistry in Wood, Riverside Art Studios and the Office Boss in Truckee; and Northwoods Clubhouse in Tahoe Donner. 



Waterway  |  Linda Rosenblum

ARTour Open Studio Tour
July 12-14 & July 19-21
10 a.m.- 5 p.m. | Free

ARTour exhibit
10 a.m.-5 p.m. | Wed.-Mon.
Until July 29 | North Tahoe Arts Center