BY CAIRRIL MILLS
Brown County is known for beautiful fall scenery and for its large community of artists. To see and appreciate both, visitors can take The Back Roads of Brown County Studio Tour any day in October.
The tours are self-guided, but on any given day tourists can visit more than a dozen artists’ studios. A map of the tour can be downloaded at browncountystudiotour.com. Artist biographies and samples of their work are also on the website.
Artwork on the tour is both decorative and functional, including painting, ceramics, pottery, jewelry, textiles, metalwork, and paper sculpture. The tour is sponsored by The Friends of T.C. Steele State Historic Site and every weekend afternoon in October visitors can observe plein air artists and chat with them about their work.
One of the artists on the tour is Martha Sechler, who works in watercolors and gourds. Her studio was built last fall by the building trades class of Chris Todd at Brown County High School. It extends over a ravine; features a large, light, open space; and is wheelchair accessible.
“I usually have a really good reaction because people love my space,” says Sechler. “It’s fun to talk to people and see where they’re from and answer their questions and just have that face-to-face interaction. For those who choose to buy, it’s nice to know where your work is going.”
The October tours began in 2001 to take advantage of the heavy fall tourist traffic and to highlight the arts community. The artists must apply to be part of the tour and must have a studio where they can demonstrate their work.
The artists who take part say they enjoy the interaction with visitors. “They ask if everything’s original,” says Sechler. “They want to know if I grow my own gourds. They ask how long it takes to make something or what medium I’m using. They like to see the tools I use and understand the differences between the different kinds of gourds.”
Jewelry artist and tour organizer Cheri Platter says, “People love that they can drive through the country and stop by and see what we’re doing. Some gardens are still lovely. We’re a small county, so most places are only five to ten minutes apart. People like seeing the work areas and how artists live and what inspires them.”