As the summer progresses and the COVID-19 rate rapidly increases, local small businesses and organizations have faced the unwanted reality of having to cancel or alter many of their annual events.
Add the Bainbridge Island Summer Studio Tour to that list.
This year marks the 20th Studio Tour, an event that would normally take place Aug. 7-9 with 38 artists showcasing their work. This year’s tour, like many other local events, has transformed into a “Virtual Tour” online throughout the month.
According to a Studio Tour news release, each artist will hand-select an exclusive piece of art for the online sale. Visitors to the site can still connect directly with the artist by phone or email, instead of meeting in-person.
“I guess staying connected with the public because we have to find creative ways for our patrons, the regular ones, and then the new ones to find them on the website,” Studio Tour director Dinah Satterwhite said about the difficulties of holding a virtual event. “We have a lot of patrons in different age categories so some are very savvy at linking to social media and to websites, and then some who are not. We’ve got to get really creative and reach out to them and find ways of getting them to link to our website.
“Some people are not as comfortable ordering stuff online because there’s shipping involved. Personally, I’m able to deliver a lot of my products, especially to people withing a 25-mile radius,” said Satterwhite, who is also an artist at the studio through her silk paintings and photography. “Some people with heavier items have to hand-deliver and other people can ship things pretty easily. A lot of this is developing very organically.”
As Satterwhite pointed out, the ever-changing pandemic can be challenging for businesses and organizations who are trying to plan out events. The BI Studio Tour board made its decision to shift to a monthlong virtual experience in the third week of July when the COVID-19 rate in Kitsap County started its ascend to record numbers.
“I thought I needed to talk to our board and say I don’t think we can do this,” Satterwhite said. “I don’t think it’s safe for our artists, I don’t think it’s safe for the patrons and as a public event, I don’t want to be bashed for doing this. The line’s been drawn in the sand, and we had to do it.”
With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding when Kitsap County will move into phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan, Satterwhite and other members of the board have already announced that the Winter Studio Tour will also be held virtually. The early decision allows for enough time to adequately plan for an enhanced online experience, something that wasn’t possible in the short timeframe for the Summer Studio Tour.
“I don’t think it’s as strong as it could be because we had to do it in a couple of weeks,” Satterwhite said. “Now that I’ve had time to research what is a virtual event and what we can do, that’s where the Winter Tour is going to be very strong. It’s good that we’re starting this far ahead.”
Potential improved features on the website for the Winter Studio Tour include events and news pages for artist gallery shows, teaching classes, exhibits, a customer photo page of Studio Tour artwork, and a feature artist of the week where customers can take a sneak peek and see what the developmental process is like for selected items, providing more background for the time it took to make the piece.
“There’s a lot of work behind that curtain that goes on and most people don’t get to see that so it’s kind of neat in a digital format now because you can’t really see it in a beautiful 10×10 booth,” Satterwhite said. “We’re going to enhance the virtual experience for people.”
Each artist in the tour has gone through a jury process to ensure the artwork is high-quality, original, hand-crafted and shows the “hand spirit of the artist,” the release states. This year’s work will reflect a variety of mediums that include glass, pottery, jewelry, oils, photography, garden art, metal, mixed media, batik, wearables, sculpture, wood, fountains and whimsical work.
Looking ahead to next summer, Satterwhite said she’s hopeful about returning to the normal in-person Studio Tour, citing “nothing beats having the artist in front of you and talking to you.”
“We’re really just feeling out what’s going to work best,” she said. “I really want to make the patrons happy; I want to fulfill what they’re looking for and also make the artists happy. People love this local artwork, that’s why I’m doing it.”
To visit the BI Summer Studio Tour, go to bistudiotour.com through the end of August.