You can’t throw a brick without hitting a visual artist in our part of the world.
We harbour painters and potters, sculptors and stained glass cutters, jewellers, woodworkers, photographers, rug braiders and clothing upcyclers – more per square kilometre than any other part of the country, according to published reports.
Forty-four of them are taking part in the 29th annual Tour des Arts, July 15 to 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To qualify, they must live and work in places like Abercorn, West Brome, Mansonville, Sutton and Knowlton – basically, Townships towns on the west side of Lake Memphremagog (the east side is served by Circuit des Arts, later in the summer.)
Their work must be exceptional, as judged by an anonymous panel of peers that
changes every year. There can’t be too many from any one discipline – forty three glass-blowers would spoil the fun. And all must offer daily public demonstrations of their artistic process before the tourists and locals who attend the event, and, as a bonus, provide a solid jolt to the region’s economy.
There is a lot of competition to make the cut. Not all do. But for many who do join the Tour, it represents both a substantial outlay in time and materials, and the opportunity to make a serious piece of their annual income in nine stay-at-home days.
“This year’s Tour looks fantastic, as good as ever,” said Renée Morris, a Dunkin bag- and-clothing wizard and member of the Tour publicity team in her third year on the circuit. “And we’ve had great support from our sponsors and patrons.”
Robert Chartier and his pottery-and-life partner Robin Badger have fashioned careers in their chosen métier while living the bucolic life on a farm in West Bolton.
“The Tour generates more than half our income, through sales, orders and contacts,” Chartier explains. “It also lets people see how our surroundings help shape our work. It’s a studio tour with an educational aspect.”
Not everyone loves the open-house element of the experience. Some tire of the voluntary invasion of their privacy by tire-kicking day- trippers. Others court nervous breakdowns worrying that, after a year’s work, no one will show up.
Still others have to leave the Tour. Irma and Roger Coté, of Knowlton, are calling it quits after their 29th edition because of failing health, and must empty out their entire stained glass studio by the end of July.
But for Renée Morris, and others, Tour des Arts is a blessing. “I earn a significant portion of my income without leaving my home. After years of doing shows across the continent, it’s a treat for artists like myself to just get up and open the doors.”
For more info, go to tourdesarts.com.