by Bill Lasarow

Art studio at the Brewery Art Complex during 1997 studio tours.


Santa Fe Art Colony, view of main building and courtyard.

Artist Ron Hillas in his studio.
Participant in the Santa Barbara Art Around Town.

It must be Spring. Between the Winter art fairs and next month's Venice Art Walk special event accents on the season, and opposite DADA's Fall extravaganza of Downtown artists, the Brewery Art Complex and the Santa Fe Art Colony open up two of L.A.'s largest studio arrays to the public on separate weekends.

Just to make sure you have enough choices to make your head spin, Santa Barbara and Ventura host their own art walks on the weekend of April 17-19. The Santa Barbara event, the fourth annual Art About Town, is a festival of open studios, galleries, and temporary exhibits (much of which will be the results of UC Santa Barbara's Site Work program of off-campus exhibitions). Studio tours will be April 18 & 19, 11am-6pm. You'll be able to pick up a map at Contemporary Arts Forum and take a self-guided tour, or sign up for a docent-led bus tour. Cost of the tour maps are $10 in advance (or $12 at the door); the $85 cost for the bus tour includes a gourmet lunch. Call the Contemporary Arts Forum for reservations or details, (805) 966-5373.

The City of Ventura sponsors the Eco Artwalk on April 18 from 6-10pm. You should park in the City Hall parking lot at 501 Poli St., where maps can be picked up showing the location of the more than 50 participating galleries, art studios, and other businesses hosting temporary shows. Many are within walking distance of City Hall, and buses will also circulate to outlying exhibitors' locations. Entertainment from dance to poetry reading will be featured at some venues. The event is free; call (805) 658-4726, the city's Community Servies Office, for further information.

The first weekend of the month, April 4 & 5 from 12-5pm each day, go to the south end of Downtown to check out the Santa Fe Colony. This is the ninth annual open studio weekend-- the Artists In Residence phenomenon in the area is proving to have legs--and over fifty artists will open their lofts. The event is free of charge (refreshments will be available), but if you want to know more call (213) 587-0782 or (213) 587-5513.

New to the Brewery's 16th tour, being held on April 25 & 26, 11am-6pm, is a partnership with El Nido Family Centers. This non-profit organization provides care for abused and neglected children (they've been around since 1925). To help raise money for this cause, an original image created by artist and Brewery resident Victor Hugo Zayas will appear on Artwalk t-shirts and cards, which will be on sale at the Brewery, and there will be a special Silent Auction that will offer art, vacation packages, and gift items.

You might also take some time to visit some of the more than 100 studios that will be open for the weekend (the Complex bills itself as "the world's largest artist colony." It's certainly the largest around here). This is also a no-admission charge event, and the former Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery boasts plenty of off-street parking in and around the studio buildings. For directions you can call (213) 694-2911, or for more information on the event and El Nido Centers call (310) 275-3448.

Visiting the various artists' studios you'll get some of the flavor of the romance, if you will, of the loft lifestyle. But even in this "raw" environment don't expect complete authenticity. Rather than seeing unfinished works and various media scattered about, an unmade bed on a mezzanine and a half-eaten lunch at the table, most artists will bring out a selection of finished works from the racks and onto the walls. The floors will be swept, odds and ends put away for the weekend. Some of the artists will be wanna-bes, others regularly exhibiting artists of national stature. The chance to see the places in which the artists live and work, neatened up as they are, will connect you more closely to the art itself. Seeing a variety of artistic levels unmitigated by gallery or curatorial editing will refreshingly force you to make your own judgements, and provide you with a powerful sense of the crucible in which art is launched.