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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Tour gives art lovers a chance to visit studios

The Little Spokane River Artist Studio Tour. (Courtesy)
By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

Ruly Deen will be among 40 artists participating in the 12th annual Little Spokane River Artist Studio Tour on Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The event is a fine art festival with a genuine, local vibe. Like a Green Bluff for art lovers. And it’s free.

For the past several years, five artists living within 10 miles of each other in the Little Spokane River Valley have opened their home studios to the public. The attraction for attendees is the opportunity to see high-quality work surrounded by the lush natural settings that inspire some of the artists themselves.

Dozens more local and regional artists, juried by the original founders, set up their tents and booths on the lawns of the studio hosts to offer their handmade works for sale as well.

“We try to have a good mix of jewelers, potters, painters to keep it interesting,” said ceramicist Jill Smith, whose studio is on the tour. “It’s a very relaxed atmosphere,” said potter Gina Freuen, whose studio also is on the tour. “People bring their moms or make it a girlfriends’ outing.”

The drive north takes just 25 minutes from downtown Spokane, but the rolling hills and bucolic gardens feel like a world away. Along the river is where Spokane’s wealthy used to keep their summer homes.

Small wonder that artists were attracted to the area’s wide-open spaces and burbling creeks. Freuen and Smith took advantage of the solitude and natural beauty by moving within walking distance of each other more than 30 years ago. Freuen, manager of Spokane’s Trackside Studio Ceramic Art Gallery, is the chief wrangler of the event and one of the original founders of the tour.

The land on which her pottery studio and kiln are located will host more than a dozen artists Saturday, including Deen, Lisa Marie Brown, Ty Brown, Terri Cody, Cheryl DeGroot, Sheila Evans, Victoria Gray, Chris Kelsey, William Henri, Mardis Nenno, Patti Osebold, Patten & Tinnell and Will Richards.

There is no particular order to the five-studio tour, but Freuen’s sister, painter and assemblage artist Kay O’Rourke, is baking cinnamon rolls to entice visitors to come to her home studio first. “That will bring them in,” Freun boasted.

“My sister is so competitive,” Freuen joked. Freuen will play host to artists Sherrie Holland, Melanie Lieb, Megan Perkins and Gay Waldman.

Painter Shani Marchant will give live demonstrations at her studio. Artists Autumn Bunton, Lynn and Mark Garner, Craig Goodwin, Denise Roberson, Linnea Tobias and Martin Waldelich will set up booths on Marchant’s land. Food will be available for purchase by the nonprofit HOPE school for the hearing impaired.

Ceramicist Smith, the other co-founder of the original tour 12 years ago, will open the doors to her home studio. She also will make room for John Blessent, Rick Davis, Mike DeCesare, Mokrey & Droz, Nan Drye, Larry Ellingson, Kris Howell, Debbie Hughbanks, Robin Kahn, Amy Mickelson, L.R. Montgomery and Jim Talley to show their works.

The nonprofit Cowgirls & Women Warriors will offer lunch items for sale. Victoria Brace will be at her home studio to show her oil paintings. Maps to all five artists’ studios are available at

“People are becoming more mindful about purchasing locally made and handmade items and art,” Freuen said. “Seeing the actual working environments of the artists is a bonus.”