Tour Local Artists’ Work Spaces in their Homes and Backyard Studios

(Ava Skidgel, Photographer)
Orinda artist Allison Skidgel in her outdoor artist studio, will be one of many artists opening their homes for the free East Bay Open Studio artist’s personal home tour June 12-13 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artists participating in this two-day event are listed at

    We’ve all been holed up for over a year with shelter-in-place protocols, but now that tiers are changing colors in our favor, so are the colors of East Bay Open Studio (EBOS) – where artists are opening their homes – allowing people to tour their personal art spaces.
    A bi-annual event, with the first one (east of the Caldecott Tunnel) slated for June 12-13 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., artists throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties will showcase exactly where they create their masterpieces.
    The second tour runs Nov. 13-14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Artists will showcase their art studios outside or inside their homes or in alternative exhibition or virtual spaces.
    Artist Allison Skidgel said her Orinda home studio is outside on her patio in warmer months and downstairs inside her home in cooler, wetter months.
    “My patio will be open for guests with the artwork on display,” said Skidgel, an elementary teacher in Richmond. “My easel and paints will be set up as usual, and guests can see where I create.”
    She said many artists serve refreshments, some give live demonstrations and some have live music. 
    EBOS, formerly organized by Pro Arts, a non-profit based in Oakland, started 40 years ago. It’s now produced by Studio Productions, led by artist and artist advocate Mark Gebhardt. 
    Skidgel said the studios and exhibition spaces are free, self-guided tours throughout the East Bay in over 12 cities.
    “The EBOS website is the go-to place for learning about studio locations and other information,” she said. “In the past, the agency put together beautiful booklets, but this year, almost all materials are virtual.”
    Skidgel does mixed media, where she said the process always remains the same.
    “I go to my sketchbook I always keep with me to draw things that catch my eye. After I choose a drawing, I get it on the canvas with charcoal and begin the fun of mixing colors and putting brush to the image,” she said.
    She added, “I always honor the original lines and shapes from the sketch, though with paint applied, they may take on a very different look and feeling. I will keep some of my drawings out for guests to see!”
    Painter Karima Swain of Walnut Creek, who uses mostly oils and occasionally acrylics, is on the tour virtually this month, but her studio will be open in person at the second tour Nov. 13-14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    She anticipated attendees will see her art displayed along her driveway leading to her art studio in November. Items on display will include paintings, drawings, Giclee prints and blank greeting cards.
    An artist pretty much her entire life, Swain studied and explored art related fields – graphic design and art therapy – before becoming serious with painting.
    “I began exhibiting my paintings publicly in 2006 and then started exhibiting in art galleries in 2012,” said Swain, born and raised in Taiwan.
    An impressionist with oils on canvas and some watercolors on paper, Jorge Spiropulo of Moraga, will showcase his studio in his backyard.
    “I’ll have painting set up around the perimeter of the house and backyard, about 40 to 50 paintings,” said Spiropulo, who was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Word of advice – bring your checkbook.
    “I try to make prices at least half of what I sell in galleries,” said Spiropulo. “Everyone that likes a style can walk away with something that won’t break the bank.”
    Artist Melissa Stephens of Walnut Creek will open her garage studio in both June and November.
    She officially started her art career in 1994 when she made greeting cards and worked with pastels.
    “But I fell in love with oil-based monotype printmaking, and that affair lasted for 12 years,” she said. “In 2006, with two babies in tow, we moved from Minnesota to Florida, so I dabbled in acrylic painting for about five years because it was fast, clean and easier than hauling out all my chemically based materials.”
    She added, “When we moved to Seattle, I dove into encaustic painting. It’s an addictive medium, and although I’m hanging onto my printing press, I plan on continuing with this medium for a long time.”
    Skidgel hopes everyone will attend both EBOS tours.
    “If you are like me, you enjoy looking at all kinds of creative expression and thinking and talking about it,” she said. “How much better to do it in someone’s own creative space where the artwork is made?”
    For more information and locations, visit, Allison Skidgel’s studio can be found online at

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