This Thanksgiving weekend, 21 artists in Point Reyes Station, Inverness Park and Inverness will open their studios to the public after not being able to do so for two years. This celebration of the arts in West Marin began in 1997 when a meeting was called by Ellen Leslie, a weaver, to explore ways that the artists residing or working in the Tomales Bay watershed could organize an open studio event. 

In many areas of California, open studios are organized by professional county arts commissions with elaborate multipage brochures, paid staff and paid advertising to support the event.  Instead, we decided to organize and put on the event on our own. We hoped that because we were doing all the work, we would be able to keep the costs—and therefore the fees for artists—low.

We were, and are, a group of painters, sculptors, jewelers, potters, printmakers, photographers and woodworkers. As artists, we were professional in each of our media, but none of us had experience putting on a public open studio event. 

Our first event had 13 artists; later ones had up to 26. Organizing artists may be a bit like organizing cats, but with a lot of hard work and patience, long meetings and some doses of humor, we wrote bylaws and formed committees to design a brochure, distribute the brochure, do printed publicity and public announcements, make and put up signs, and so forth. We decided to hold our first open studio on Thanksgiving weekend, a time when many people come to our part of the coast with families and friends.  

The open studios progressed both in print format and digital media as the times and our own expertise progressed. Our first brochure was small, printed in black ink on quality paper. The Black Mountain logo we use was designed by Susan Hall, one of the original 13 artists in our group. Artists were listed with their name, media, address, phone number and number on the map. There were no emails. These were added in 2003, a year after our website launched in 2002. In 2004, we printed the brochure in color for the first time, thanks to member Susanne Haddon, a graphic designer as well as a painter. In 2008, we transitioned to a larger-format brochure that could also be displayed as a poster. This is the format we still use today.

After five years of very successful Thanksgiving open studios, we decided to add a second, warm-season event. From 2002 to 2004, the July Fourth weekend was our second open studio. This came with challenges, as the holiday can change from a weekend to mid-week, and it is often more of a time when families picnic or go to watch fireworks. With all that in mind, in 2005 we held our first Memorial Day weekend open studio and, since then, we have had a bi-annual event, on Thanksgiving and Memorial Day weekends.

One of the wonderful hidden benefits of planning open studios as a group and working collaboratively to make it happen was that we got to know each other better as individual artists, some of whom had been in the community for many years and some of whom were new to the area. From the beginning, one of our goals was to act as a resource and support for each other. 

Our roster of artists has changed over time. Artists in the group have also at times shared their studio with other artists who did not have a place where they could hold an open studio. We have welcomed new artists with mentoring to explore and learn ways to hold a successful open studio. Eventually, we were able to extend partial scholarships to artists joining us for the first time to offset the open studio fee. We have evolved as a more coherent community of artists who interact with and support one another.

This brings us to Open Studios Thanksgiving 2021, which we are so eager to host. Because of the restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we did not hold open studios over Memorial Day or Thanksgiving weekends in 2020, or over Memorial Day weekend this year. We are still being conscious and conscientious about health risks, and masks will be required in all studios this Thanksgiving weekend. 

For a preview of the 21 participating artists, check out and look for brochures that will be available in many venues around town. We are truly looking forward to opening our studios to the public this Thanksgiving weekend 2021. And, if you’d like to learn more about the Great Open Studio Sign Rescue Caper, make sure to ask Bruce Mitchell!

The Point Reyes Open Studios take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 26, 27 and 28. Visit for more information. 

Inverness resident Molly Prier is a potter known for her Pueblo-style pit-fired cups bowls and vases. She was a founding member of Point Reyes Open Studios.