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Cruise on in: Studio Cruise still aims to educate 10 years later

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David Towley Woodworking.2 / 4
By Elaine Netland.3 / 4
By Cindy Burger Studio.4 / 4

BEMIDJI -- For 10 years now, Cindy Burger has opened her studio for at least one weekend to allow the public to see how she makes metal jewelry. One by one over three days, visitors come, ask questions, and, ideally, they leave with a little more appreciation for the artistry she’s honed throughout the past few decades.

Along with more than 20 other artists, Burger opens her doors to art admirers as part of the annual Bemidji First City of Arts Studio Cruise, set this year for Oct. 20-22. Marking its 1oth annual year this fall, the event allows the public into local artists’ studios to observe their craftsmanship first hand. Although the artists in the tour have varied some through the years, the group has strived to spread awareness and appreciation for the artistic community for whom the area is home.

“We wanted to bring people into Bemidji and expose them to the art,” said Kathy Towley, co-chair for the event. “It’s brought people to Bemidji, and they realize that it’s a destination for the arts.”

For the public, it’s been a chance to see the artistry behind the rings they wear on their fingers or the paintings they hang on their walls. It’s also one of the few -- if only -- chances to see the artists work in their studios.

And, according to Burger, they’ve often walked away with a deeper appreciation for her jewelry than they would have if they’d simply purchased it elsewhere.  

Rather than just admiring the end result, they see the creative process. During Studio Cruise, Burger shows her guests her room of tools. She also has a window from where they can watch her soldering process.

“It fascinates people, because they simply don’t understand the process,” Burger said. “(I love) that people come in and are either amazed or shocked at the intricacies of what actually goes into making a piece.”

Studio Cruise began when Towley and her husband, David, who are both woodturning artists, moved to Bemidji permanently. They’d known of other similar art tours, and decided to begin one in Bemidji when they learned there wasn’t any such options.

Like Burger, some of the artists involved with Studio Cruise have done it every year, while others have joined the program along the way. That first year, there was just about a dozen-plus artists involved. But since its inception, new artists have joined the yearly event.

This year marks the first for Elaine Netland. A member of Gallery North, she previously didn’t have a studio where she could host the visitors who come through for the event.

Although there are still more artists on the tour than 10 years ago, there are fewer artists than last year. Towley said that’s because some of the cruise’s longtime artists have taken a year off to see the other stops along the tour.  

“They change each year,” Towley said about the artists in the Studio Cruise. “When you’re an artist on it, you don’t get to go out and see the other artists’ studios.”

While Studio Cruise may give a broader appreciation for the public, it’s even had that effect for artists admiring other artists. Netland, who’d gone on the tour in the past, said it’s been a chance to both admire and learn from others in the arts community.

“Even to see their studios was really interesting, I thought,” Netland said. “It gives you ideas for your own, from an artist’s perspective.”