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Inside their creative environment: Tri-Valley studio tour to connect local artists with community

This weekend Tri-Valley residents will have the chance to engage with dozens of local artists, crafters, jewelry makers and creatives and view their works in their most vulnerable spaces -- the studio.

For the second time, the Alliance for the Visual Arts is set to host the Tri-Valley Artist Studio Tour across various locations in the area. The regional organization has enlisted over 60 local artists who will be opening their creative spaces to the public this Saturday and Sunday (May 6-7).

Free to attend, the event will feature work from artists across Pleasanton, Livermore, Danville, Dublin and San Ramon. Visitors can enter into artist studio spaces to discuss techniques with creators and purchase pieces. Fifteen sites will be available to tour, including Livermore's Bothwell Arts Center and Pleasanton's Firehouse Arts Center.

"Our whole reason for existence is to support the art organizations, to build community between the artists and then connect the artists to the community," Livermore artist and TVAST co-founder Dennis Baker told the Weekly. "This is basically the way we do that, by having a huge open studio tour."

Baker helped formulate the event concept with other local arts supporters in 2020 after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. He and Livermore Valley Arts visual and education manager Anne Giancola were inspired to create a set of studio tour events in the area.

"During the pandemic, so many of our artist friends were depressed and not able to get out and meet with others," Baker said. "We conjured up this idea of doing our own studio tours here, organically in our own areas."

Although it did not come to fruition immediately, in November 2021 the first Tri-Valley studio tour took place virtually.

"That was so successful that we decided to do it again," Baker said.

Baker spoke about the importance of events like TVAST and how they play a crucial role in connecting the regional art scene.

"A lot of the artists participating this time had not participated before, are new to the area or they've been an artist for a very short time. They didn't know how to get involved in the artistic community and then they see something like this event that we're putting on and they're thrilled," Baker said. "All of a sudden they get to jump back into the community."

"From the artistic artists' perspective, it's a chance to form great relationships with other creators, which is phenomenally important. You just can't understate the importance of that," he added.

With so many artists opening up and allowing the public to view their creative spaces, Baker feels it is a rare opportunity to view them in such a raw light.

"People can see working studio spaces and just get a visual idea of what it means to have a creative process," Baker said. "They'll see it as a way to peek behind the curtain and ask questions, see it being made, and see people who perhaps look like them too."

Visitors can expect to partake in live demonstrations and discussions with artists as well. As part of Baker's planned talks for Saturday and Sunday, he will discuss the importance of creativity.

"It can be used as a force of good, you could call it therapy," Baker said. "Picking up a hobby like painting, for example, will lead you to sense the world differently, to give you a greater sense of freedom to express. I think that's really important."

Baker shared his aspirations for the future of the tour, saying, "I'm hoping that in the years to follow that it will become something that the community looks forward to and seen as an inspiration to engage in something creative."

Jennifer Huber, artist and TVAST volunteer, spoke to the Weekly about the alliance's event.

"I think it's really important to bring in artists into a community that they can join without judgment," Huber said. "It's bringing more artists in and educating people about the art community. It's people's passions that they really love."

Huber is known to incorporate bike riding into her creative process. By stopping and painting along her bike route, Huber is able to capture unique and lesser highlighted points of view in her work.

"TVAST is really something special for us Tri-Valley artists," Huber continued. "These are great opportunities to give support and direction. That's what I'm really looking forward to."

Huber will be organizing bike routes between each site for visitors, as she did for the first TVAST.

"The Tri-Valley has a wealth of creative people who make art and are eager to showcase their work to the community," said Karen Barry, a local artist and TVAST deputy director.

"The (TVAST) venues are spread out all over the Tri-Valley, as well as in many home studios, pop-ups and collectives. Artists do a wide range of media, our visitors will see painting, ceramics, sculpture, mixed media, printmaking and more," she added.

A traditional printmaker, Barry also makes etchings, woodcuts and linocuts. Barry shared her experience during the first TVAST in 2021.

"We had a lot of visitors to our location and it was a fun weekend," she recalled. "I really do enjoy sharing my art with others and getting their reactions."

Barry's art career began once moving to Pleasanton over 10 years ago. She slowly began creating more art and becoming aligned with major creative organizations in the area.

"A lot of my work is inspired by nature and what I encounter when I'm hiking, cycling, and camping," Barry said. "It's fun to observe the shifting patterns in our environment, some subtle and others not so subtle."

Shweta Agrawal, TVAST featured artist and social media manager, reflected on the upcoming weekend event.

"It is a very fulfilling experience working for TVAST," Agrawal told the Weekly. "TVAST provides an opportunity for everyone to come out and spend a creative weekend immersed in the world of art. It's a chance to discover new artists, see unique artwork and support the local art community."

"Our Tri-Valley Open Art Studio Tour has been instrumental in bringing artists and hubs for the community to come together and appreciate arts," Agrawal added.

When discussing her own approach to art, Agrawal explained that she personally can draw influence from anywhere.

"Inspiration can come from a variety of sources, such as personal experiences, emotions, nature, culture, current events or even other forms of art," Agrawal said. "I often have a unique perspective on the world, and use my work as a way to express myself and share my vision with others."

No matter the inspiration, Agrawal lets her creative spark flow wherever it may.

"I am drawn to certain subjects or themes that resonate with them on a deeper level. My aim is to communicate a particular message or emotion through my work or simply be captivated by the beauty or complexity of my subject matter," she said. "I sometimes get motivated by the desire to create something new and innovative, other times I am driven by a need to explore and express my innermost thoughts and feelings. "

Agrawal anticipates that TVAST guests will be pleased by their visits to the various studios this weekend.

"Visitors to an artist studio tour might take away a deeper appreciation and understanding of the creative process and the work that goes into creating art. They may also gain insight into the artist's personal inspirations, motivations, and techniques," she said. "The beautiful thing is that you will never find 2 pieces that are even remotely the same."

To find more information about the TVAST locations and schedule, visit


About the Author: Nicole Gonzales

Nicole Gonzales is a staff reporter for Embarcadero Media’s East Bay Division, the Pleasanton Weekly. Nicole began writing for the publication in July 2022.
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