DECORAH – This weekend’s forecast is for sunny and crisp days, and the leaves are changing right on cue for the 21st annual Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour.
Iowa’s Driftless area comes alive in fall with both lush scenery and art for a scenic at-your-own-pace drive through valleys, along ridge tops, past steep limestone bluffs and up and down hills to view and purchase the work of 51 artists at 37 locations.
The art adventure is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is no admission fee.
Featured artists create in varied media, including pottery, painting, weaving, photography, fiber, basketry, jewelry, woodcarving, glass, collage and mixed media. Seven new artists are participating, including potter Gunnar Schwarz, ceramics artist David Dobson, potter Kyra Bellrichard, architectural salvage artists Kristi and Terry Haindfield and returning glass artists Deborah and Dan Fenn.
Radiating no more than 40 miles in any direction from Decorah, the Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour is Iowa’s first, largest and longest-running studio tour.
“Few people have driven the entire tour in a single year because it doesn’t allow you to see the artists at work. It’s an educational experience to see an artist’s tools and techniques which gives you an in-depth appreciation of what goes into creating art,” says jewelry maker Darla Ellickson, one of the tour’s founders.
“There are so many treasures to find on the tour, and it’s a great time to see what’s right off the artist’s bench and shop for Christmas presents, too.”
Ellickson is not surprised Decorah has become the hub of an artists’ enclave. “It’s a very vibrant arts community. The community is very supportive, and Decorah is expanding with so much going on, so many happenings and cultural options like craft breweries and music.
“Artists can work in the secluded beauty of the Driftless area but have access to so many major markets. We’re 3 1/2 hours from Des Moines, three hours from Minneapolis, four hours from Milwaukee and five hours from Chicago,” she explains.
Many artists are Luther College graduates or former students at Luther, and there is an influx of both younger and older people moving into the area.
People on the tour also are being urged to stroll through downtown Decorah, visit the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, dine at one of the restaurants and step into galleries and boutiques.
Anyone interested in the driving tour is advised to download the brochure and map at www.iowaarttour.com in printable format. There is an interactive Google map with GPS coordinates.
“Please print out the map. Don’t rely on your cellphone or GPS locator because there are valleys and spots without reception,” Ellickson notes.
There are two formats on the driving route, one based on the easiest point from A to B, and the second with directions from the nearest major intersection. “Nobody is too far apart. It’s all in Iowa, so if you hit the Minnesota or Wisconsin border, you’ve gone too far.”
The studio tour is self-sufficient, funded by entry fees, grants, donations, sponsors and advertisers.