Josefina Rocha will showcase her paintings at Pajaro Valley Arts during the annual Open Studios Art Tour. Photo: Esmeralda Fregoso

Each year during the first three weekends in October, the public is invited to a free countywide self-guided art tour. Arts Council Santa Cruz County’s 37th annual Open Studios Art Tour features 322 artists who will open their studios across Santa Cruz County. 

The tour kicks off on Oct. 7 and 8 in the southern part of the county, where you can drop into studios between 11am and 5pm each day.

Visitors will meet seasoned artists who have participated since 1986, talented newcomers and makers and creators of all kinds. Neighbors, friends, collectors and art lovers can connect with artists, see their creative process up close and buy art from the source. 

This year, there are more first-time participants than ever, with 65 artists new to the tour—a record number, including six from the Watsonville area: Charles Gonzales, Patti Hedderly, Lynn Karst, Simon Silver, Karen Avery and Birgitta Steiner. 

“Open Studios connects us to many of Santa Cruz County’s visual artists. It’s an opportunity to visit a studio, learn more about the artist’s creative practice, and explore a neighborhood you don’t know yet,” said Ann Ostermann, Open Studios director. “It takes a lot of planning and nerve on the part of participating artists. It’s a joy to see it pay off with art sales and new relationships formed, old friends reunited, and neighbors getting to know each other.”

Arts Council Santa Cruz County has reduced barriers to participation in this community event by allowing artists to share their studios or exhibit in alternative spaces. Look for pop-up spaces and galleries such as Pajaro Valley Arts, where Josefina Rocha and last year’s Artist Guide cover artist Hermelinda Vasquez-Matias will show their work. 

“What many people don’t know about the tour is that it is free and everyone is welcome. When I see kids or whole families out touring together, it’s such a joy,” Ostermann said. “So, during Open Studios, when you see those lime green signs with artist names and arrows all over the county, come on in. For folks who prefer to use a printed guide or a phone app to make their way, we have those, too.” 

Free Artist Guides are now available at drop-off points throughout the county, and an Open Studios App and website help navigate the tour. The public is invited to the Preview Exhibit at the Santa Cruz Art League, open from Sept. 29 through Oct. 22 at the Santa Cruz Art League, 526 Broadway in Santa Cruz. The Preview Exhibit features artwork from more than 300 Open Studios artists.

Visit for information and where to pick up your Artist Guide. Follow Open Studios on Instagram @openstudios.scc to learn more about participating artists and see behind the scenes. 

Open Studios takes place the first three weekends of October, from 11am to 5pm.: 

• Oct. 7-8: South County artists, from the Yacht Harbor south

• Oct. 14-15: North County artists, from the Yacht Harbor north

• Oct. 21-22: All County, featuring 277 artists across the county

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