Sierra Art Trails returns for another weekend of mountains, artists and a new view on the world
Welcome back, Sierra Art Trails.
After taking a break for the pandemic, the premier artistic event in the foothills of eastern Madera and Mariposa counties is back and better than ever. From Mariposa to Yosemite Lakes, more than a dozen communities in Eastern Madera and Mariposa counties are part of the fun. Artists and artisans work in a wide range of media including painting, photography, jewelry, sculpture, fiber arts, woodcarving, ceramics, glass, and more. This year’s lineup features 69 artists in 38 locations.
The weather is usually hint-of-fall perfect, the skies blue and the winding mountain roads fun to drive. Here’s a rundown:
The event: It runs for two weekends this year: Oct. 1-3; and Oct. 8-10. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Some artists do not show on Fridays.
The tickets: Your Sierra Art Trails catalog ($20) serves as a ticket for two. You can buy a catalog at Stellar Gallery in Oakhurst (40982 Hwy 41), where you can view the preview exhibition. This can be a good way to figure out the studios you’d like to visit.
The path: You pick your own trail. The catalog is nicely organized in terms of geography. You can pick Coarsegold/Yosemite Lakes Park, Oakhurst/North Fork and Mariposa/Ahwahnee.
The pace: You set it yourself. Lots of people come from out of town (from all over the state, in fact) and make it a multi-day outing. There’s no way you could do all three trails in one days, so pick and choose. Many of the trail stops feature multiple artists. If you plan things out, you can actually see a lot in just a few hours.
My picks, Part 1: Carolyn Hartling is this year’s recipient of the Keeper of the Flame award, an honor bestowed by Sierra Art Trails. She’s in good company: I was the 2019 recipient, and I got to keep the title for two years (along with the Chris Sorensen sculpture that is temporarily bestowed on the winner), though not for happy reasons. Anyway, Carolyn is a wonderful artist and a great Art Trails host.
My picks, Part 2: If you have the time, don’t miss Scott McGrath’s stop in Mariposa. I wrote about his arts wonderland in 2019. It’s not to be missed. (He’s only appearing the second weekend. This is a good reminder that you should double-check the catalog and the updates on the Sierra Art Trails website.)
My advice: Don’t neglect the solo out-of-the-way venues. Some of my best Art Trails moments have been when I drove an extra five or 10 miles to a home out in the boonies. If it’s remote enough, you might end up as the only guest at the time and get some one-on-one time with the artist.
And: Be curious. Talk to the artists. Ask about inspiration, technique, materials, obstacles, etc. Find out something about the artist’s backstory. Can you find an emotional connection to the art? If not, that’s OK. But it’s always good to be appreciative about the time, talent and enthusiasm that artists put into their work.
Finally: Take your checkbook. Artists have to eat. But browsers are welcome, too.