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Artist Studio Tour reels in new faces, patrons

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Views of the St. Lawrence River beckon tourists from all over the world to visit the Thousand Islands.

The same idyllic scenes of bobbing boats and lonely islands capture the creativity of local artists, too. But to continue their work, a notoriously expensive endeavor, artists need patrons.

“Artwork sells only if they know who you are and where you are,” said artist Michael C. Ringer. “No matter how great they are and how fine their artwork is, it doesn’t help if no one sees it.”

To that end, approximately 27 artists throughout the Thousand Islands are welcoming visitors into their studios and homes this weekend for an intimate view of their creative spaces. The two-day Artist Studio Tour is the first of its kind in Jefferson County.

Organizer Robert P. Hedden, an artist himself, has wanted to see a larger tour of the area’s artists for years.

“Canada has been doing this for 20 years on the other side of the river,” he said. “My mission is to bring the market to the artists.”

To be part of this year’s tour, artists paid a $10 fee for Mr. Hedden to provide signs to guide visitors to each studio. Mr. Hedden said the Along the River’s Edge tour in Canada asks artists to pay about $200 for the same kind of exposure.

This is the first of what Mr. Hedden, Wellesley Island, hopes will be an annual event. His ultimate goal is to get the Seaway Trail to publish an artists trail guide so more people see the artwork inspired by the area.

“Probably 10 percent of the population buys art,” Mr. Hedden said. “Who would pay $20 for a guide? People who buy art.”

Some area artists, like Mr. Ringer, are recognized enough that they do not need as much exposure. However, Mr. Ringer said he understands the tour is a great opportunity for lesser-known artists to get their work viewed.

He and several other artists on Dingman Point Road, Alexandria Bay, have held a small open-studio tour for the last several years; this year, it will be on Aug. 4 and 5. He said he has talked about doing something bigger for years.

“I’d like to see an international one,” Mr. Ringer said.

Both he and another Dingman Point artist, Sherman C. Ward, saw about 20 people by lunchtime Saturday — most of them new faces.

“Most of the people who have been here are people I’ve never known before,” Mr. Ward said.

Visitors, coming one or two at a time, could meander through Mr. Ward’s living room and view paintings and sculptures that his wife, Ann B. Ward, would not allow him to sell. On his wall was a to-scale felt map of the Thousand Islands.

“When we have our local (tour), we get 200 people a day,” Mr. Ward said.

His wife said, “We haven’t sold anything today, but it’s a lot more fun.”

William W. Christopherson lives in Watertown, but chose his second home, a boat at the end of Dingman Point Road, to showcase his work on the weekend.

“I do quite a bit of painting on my boat,” he said. “I’ll go over to the river and throw my anchor overboard and start painting.”

Mr. Christopherson said he sold one small print of Boldt Castle earlier on Saturday, but one visitor promised to come back today to buy a larger original.

“It’s a great opportunity for the lesser-known galleries to get some recognition,” Mr. Christopherson said. “It’s a chance to partner with other galleries. Sackets Harbor has been trying to put together a gallery tour for years.”

Mr. Hedden said he already has ideas for next year’s tour, and there are several artists on his waiting list. “I would expect to keep this going for many years,” he said.

To go on the tour, pick up a free map at Thousand Islands Arts Center, 314 John St., Clayton. The home studios will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

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