Late Saturday morning delivered welcome sunshine and with stiff winds, blowing crisp leaves of yellow, orange and crimson tumbling through the streets of downtown and Campustown — painting a perfect autumnal day for this year’s Ames Artists’ Studio Tour.
Saturday and Sunday both had opportunities to visit with local artists in their personal studios and hear about the inspiration behind their art. The free, self-guided event has been annually organized by the Ames Arts Council for the past several years.
“The first couple rounds were started by someone from the Octagon [Octagon Center for the Arts], several directors back." said Lee Anne Willson, professor of astronomy at Iowa State and founding president of Creative Artists' Studio of Ames (CASA). "She had hoped the community would take it over so then CASA took it over for a while and then it moved to the Ames arts council."
Without any of these groups or organizations, the culture of art and community of local artists would still exist in the City of Ames, but people would not be as involved.
CASA artist Norma Wolfe said, “I started painting again after 40 years because of CASA.” Today, she has a beautiful collection of paintings with a playful approach to color, done with sprayed watercolor, ink and her own stencils.
Among the 14 featured artists this year were mixed media artist Kyle Renell, furniture designer Chris Martin and Naomi Friend, who specializes in cyanotype and illustration.
Employing the use of pastels, graphite, acrylic paint, watercolors and colored pencil in her current work, Renell’s objective is to showcase the interconnectedness of all human beings and how the light within each individual is often masked by life’s events and circumstances. Her goal is for her art draws the viewer’s attention to the human condition and social issues including human trafficking and child abuse.
Martin is an Iowa State University alumni and is currently a professor of furniture design in the department of art and visual culture. His creative work contains influences from his time spent in the country of Ghana in West Africa when he and his wife volunteered for the U.S. Peace Corps for two years. Martin was also awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, granting him five months in India, where he worked with traditional and contemporary craftsmen to develop original furniture inspired by India’s traditional craft culture.
From Central Iowa and with a focuses on farm life and landscapes in her artwork, Friend’s interest lies where wild, urban and rural environments meet humanity as its caretakers. Rural scenes, modern buildings and realistic animals can all be found in her illustrations and expressed in the unique process of cyanotype — the photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print, which is a technique that was utilized by engineers in the 20th century to produce low-cost copies of drawings called blueprints.
It’s important to the Ames Community Arts Council that they not exclusively represent the fine arts, but also the visual artists and performing artists as well as art appreciators. They provide a diverse selection of artistic crafts from jewelry making to glass blowing and even showcase spaces like the Alexander Recording Kompany, located on Douglas Avenue downtown.
“Lots of working artists in Ames are working in their home environments, whether its their garage or basement or something nearby, so they open up their homes and let you come down and watch them work,” said Ames Community Arts Council member Jennifer Brockpahler. “There’s so many artists in Ames and every small town that are making art on the side or as part of a bigger picture of their life and so the purpose of the studio tour was to let the people of Ames know that.”