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Monadnock Art cancels annual fall tour

  • Monadnock Art/Friends of the Dublin Art Colony 24th Annual Open Studios Art Tour on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.

  • Monadnock Art/Friends of the Dublin Art Colony 24th Annual Open Studios Art Tour on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.

  • The Monadnock Art Tour draws hundreds of visitors to the studios of artist such as John Sirois of Peterborough. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/22/2020 1:09:31 PM
Modified: 5/22/2020 1:09:19 PM

Long range plans present so much uncertainty these days and it is forcing local event organizers to make a decision months before the days of when people would actually gather.

Count Monadnock Art: Friends of the Dublin Art Colony among them.

Even though the Columbus Day weekend art tour is more than four months away, tour president Joe Caracappa said it was necessary to make a decision now. And for those who like spending a weekend visiting artists homes and studios it is not good news.

On Monday, Monadnock Art Tour announced it was canceling its fall tour that was set to be a big milestone for the organization, celebrating 25 years since the first event was held in and around Dublin.

“The artists spend a lot of time in the coming months to get ready,” Caracappa said. “We thought it would be better to give people certainty. We waited as long as we could.”

What started out as a small group of artists looking to promote the rich history of art in the region has grown to several hundred members a quarter century later and become one of the premiere tours in the state.

Outside of the fact that deadlines were approaching for brochure printing and promotional endeavors, Caracappa said the final decision stemmed from the feedback the board of Monadnock Art was receiving from participants.

There was great concern on the part of the artists, Caracappa said, and it made the decision a little easier to accept.

“It’s a little different when the event is hosted at artists’ homes,” Caracappa said. “And what became clear had we gone forward there would have been a lot less artists involved in it.”

Caracappa said they talked to dozens of artists and while some were willing to commit to the October tour, there were many that said no and others that just couldn’t give an answer at this point.

“You don’t know what the situation is going to be like,” Caracappa said. “There’s just a lot of uncertainty.”

Caracappa said the board was checking on other tours around the country and that a lot of them scheduled through Labor Day had canceled. So it was best for everyone involved to make a decision.

“We could have waited a couple weeks, but how much more are we going to know then?” he said.

Chris Myott, an oil painter who has a studio in Jaffrey, has been part of the tour for 10 years and while he was leaning toward participating if the tour went on as planned, there was no way he could give a definitive yes at this point.

“I was going to wait and see, but if this was still going on and there’s not a vaccine, I wouldn’t want to chance it,” Myott said.

Myott has a big barn that houses his studio and can fit upwards of 100 people, but found it difficult to come up with a way that he could host visitors safely.

On one hand, Myott will miss not being able to showcase his work and studio, but the financial hit from the tour being canceled has a big impact on his yearly income.

“It’s a really busy weekend and usually I do really well,” Myott said. He added that about a quarter of what he makes for the year comes during the tour.

“I make art full time and while it’s not a ton of money, it’s pretty significant,” Myott said.

Susan Barker of Dublin has been part of the tour for 20 of the previous 24 years, so it’s something she looks forward to every fall. At this point, Barker said she was planning on participating, but had reservations.

“I think they made a good choice,” Barker said. “You just can’t have strangers in your studio.”

Barker said she is typically nonstop throughout the weekend and as a jewelry maker, people are constantly trying on pieces and the logistics behind cleaning and sanitizing would be painful.

“Some ladies try on 10 necklaces before they decide to buy,” she said.

Barker sets up in her two car garage, but if visitors had to stay six feet apart, she could probably only have six people in there at a time.

Financially, Barker said, it will make an impact, but not as much as it will for other artists who depend on the tour as a source of income.

“I’m going to miss the money, but I don’t need it to survive,” Barker said. “But I know people on the tour who really do need it.”

Genevieve Groesbeck, a studio potter in Peterborough, has been part of the tour for all but two years and currently serves on the board. She said she was going to participate, but stands behind the decision after seeing the responses from other artists.

“It’s just one of those things where it’s a really hard call one way or the other,” Groesbeck said. “All of us had reservations.”

Her studio has a few levels, but she said social distancing would mean only a handful of people could be in there at one time. And if there were guidelines for disinfecting it would be next to impossible.

“You’d have to be following after people,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been a good feeling.”

Groesbeck said the cancellation hurts quite a bit in terms of income.

“This was one of the big ones I was planning on,” she said. “There’s no way any artist can make money when all the big shows are shut down.”

In the end, Groesbeck knows it was important to make a decision now.

“It was a difficult choice, but I think we made the right one,” she said.

Myott said in addition to the Monadnock Art Tour being postponed, he had four shows canceled between now and then, including one at the Dublin Community Center right before the tour.

With no shows to get ready for, Myott said he has been immersing himself in his painting and said “it’s been nice to be tucked away just working on stuff.”

He said thankfully sales have continued online, including a painting he completed on Monday that sold on Tuesday. But he worries about the future of the art business.

“Is this a beautiful luxury that I won’t have anymore?” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to continue that way of life.”

In addition to being the president of Monadnock Art, Caracappa also is one of the artists and was left with more questions than answers.

“You have people thinking, how am I going to manage that in my studio,” Caracappa said. “How do you keep them six feet apart?”

The tour’s 25th anniversary event will now be held in 2021.

“We were planning to do some bigger events during that weekend, but we’ll just more that to next year,” Caracappa said. “From my own personal standpoint, it’s better to have a great event rather than do a 25th that would be reduced in size.”

As of now, Monadnock Art is still planning to move forward with its annual gallery show at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough from Oct. 3-31.

“So the artists will have a space to display some work,” Caracappa said.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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