30th anniversary celebrated by Over the Mountain Studio Tour
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Thirty years ago, a group of artists sat around the kitchen table of basket weaver Anne Bowers in Kearneysville, brainstorming ways to gain visibility for their art. Out of that session came the idea for the Over the Mountain Studio Tour, which has since been held every year around the Jefferson County, and this year’s tour is featuring the handmade wares of 24 local artists at 10 studios.
On Friday evening, members of the juried tour gathered together with the community to celebrate the tour’s anniversary in the War Memorial Building.
“We got together around Anne’s kitchen table and asked, ‘How can we help each other?'” said Sycamore Pottery’s Pam Parziale, who runs the award-winning business with her husband, Rea Parziale. “There were 15 of us in all. Today, Ren, Anne and I are the three remaining founders who are still part of the tour.
“We all work cooperatively together to succeed, and we work hard at everything we do. To me it’s an honor to be part of a creative community,” Pam said. “West Virginia has a long tradition of hand workers. We are continuing that tradition, ‘Our hands are our tools.'”
Over the last 30 years, Pam has scrapbooked the tour’s history, and as she looked at articles and advertisements for previous years’ events, she mentioned another focus the artists within the group have – mentoring new artists.
“It’s important for us to be mentors for emerging artists, and to help them learn how to establish a business. [Being an artist] is daunting – you have to publicize your work,” Pam said, mentioning the tour members’ mentees also offer some help to their mentors. “The young people we’re mentoring know how to communicate on social media, so they help us, and we help them.”
The success of the tour may have to do with the quality and diversity of the artists’ work, according to Fran Brolle, of Shepherdstown Art Glass and Jewelry.
“We have a diverse group – you see blacksmiths, potters, jewelers, all of these original artists,” Brolle said. “I’ve been on the tour for 10 years. It was a privilege to join – somebody invited me to the juried show, and frankly, I felt honored, because the tour is so well-known and has such a strong history.”
Across the room, Dream Circles artist and 15-year tour member Tara Bell placed one of her colored pencil landscapes on the wall of her display, as she thought about the significance of the evening’s event.
“Tonight we’re going to have about 94 people who have done the tour in the last 30 years. Some have moved away, some have passed away, some are still in the area, and we’ve invited as many as possible to come today,” Bell said. “We have customers that have been supporting us for 30 years. We want to thank the patrons, the retailers, the community for making this happen.”
To learn more about the tour, visit www.overthemountainstudiotour.com/.