The Franklin County Artisan Studio and Harvest Tour returns for a fifth year Oct. 19 and 20. The annual tour gives the community the opportunity to meet and see the art of many of the county’s artists.
“I’ve been an artist since the late ‘60s and I’ve painted just about my entire life,” said Carol Yopp, one of the presenting artists and tour organizer. “And ever since I moved here, I wanted to help the arts community here.”
Yopp has been working to promote Franklin County artists since she left her job in Salem. Putting together the Franklin County Artisan Studio and Harvest Tour takes a lot of work.
“My organizational skills came from my job at GE,” Yopp said. “I was an engineer there for 36 years, and you have to be organized to be an engineer.”
In the past, the event had been a studio tour. This year, there will only be two stops: Carter’s Fine Jewelers & Gifts and the Essig Recreation Center in Rocky Mount.
“In the past, we would pair up artists, because some people don’t have a studio they can open up to the public,” Yopp said. “Last year I had 10 people that had nowhere to go, and I put them at the depot (in Rocky Mount). Several people were counting visitors for me, and we had somewhere between 300 and 400 people come through last year. That’s one-stop shopping, so people were coming there and not going to the studios.”
The other artists wanted to experience that kind of foot traffic, therefore the tour was consolidated to two locations. Eight artists will be represented at Carter’s, and 20 will be at the Essig Center, including Michelle Bradley who creates stained glass art.
“Last year when I was at the depot, I thought, ‘Well, this is supposed to be a studio tour, and people are supposed to see you working,’ so I brought all my stuff and worked,” Bradley said. “It turned out really well, so I’m going to do that again this year.”
Bradley has a full-time job and creates during her free time. She started taking classes in stained glass in 2007 when she lived in Florida. A small and simple stained glass work may take three hours; larger and more intricate creations could take five to eight days, Bradley said.
“My favorite part is when I can hold it up to the light and see its real beauty,” Bradley said of her work.
Carter’s Fine Jewelers always has art for sale, including jewelry by Nell Fredericksen and paintings by Drew DeNeal and Yopp.
“We have eight local artists, and we’re members of Round the Mountain, which is the Southwest Virginia Artisan Network,” said Vanessa Carter of Carter’s. “In this segment of Virginia, we’re called the White Lightning Trail, and we are the only gallery that’s member of it.”
In business since 1986, Carter’s has tried to promote the county in many ways, including the upcoming tour. “This is one way we can do a lot, and the art is beautiful to look at,” Carter said. “I think we have so much hidden talent here that people do not know about. I just think it’s a fun day for people who like looking at art that you can buy.”
With the tour, visitors can also meet the artists. “You can go to a gallery and look at art, but you don’t usually meet the artist,” Yopp said. “You don’t get to see the person who blows the glass or makes these mandolins. The Artisan Studio and Harvest Tour is a way you get to see the people and talk with them.”
It is that personal connection that adds meaning to the art, Yopp said. “People who thought they had no interest in art develop an interest in it because they’ve met you and they’ve talk to you and they see how dedicated you are and how important it is to you and then it becomes important to them,” she said. “I want people to understand how many wonderful, talented, people we have in this community.”
More information on the Franklin County Artisan Studio and Harvest Tour is at www.artandharvest. com.