What is the history of the Cape Ann Artisans?

In 1980 professional artist/craftspeople in Rockport and Gloucester began to meet regularly at potlucks to support each other in their vocations. Fourteen of them formalized a group: Cape Ann Artisans, “Artisans” to bridge the art vs. craft dichotomy. In May of 1982 they ran with the idea of a tour to their studios, mailed photocopied maps to their customers, and found that people loved visiting the workspaces and exploring little known parts of Cape Ann. Throughout the years studio tours have been held, group shows in airports, libraries, museums, visitors’ centers throughout the greater Boston/Cape Ann area. The membership has flowed, artisans coming and going. At the 30th anniversary show at the Cape Ann Museum, work by 70 current and former members was on display.

Each Artisan works as a volunteer to help with the tour. This involves all the logistics, marketing, and planning each year. The group works as a jury of peers to assess the applications for new artisans when there is interest.

What will I find at an Open Studio Tour?

The Cape Ann Artisan Open Studios is a biannual event (Spring and Fall). It is a self-guided visit to any studios that are listed on the brochure and website. At each studio (many of which are in residential areas) you will find the artist there to explain the work and all work is for sale. In addition to 1:1 time with the artist, in many cases you will experience beautiful gardens and neighborhood treasures that would not normally be ready accessible to the public.

Can I contact artists outside the Tour dates?

Yes. Most of the artists are available by appointment or chance. Some with retail locations have regular hours.

Do the artists sell only what is in the studio or can I place a custom order?

Many of the artists are experienced in working with clientele on custom projects. Jewelers and mosaic artists do this on a regular basis as do some of the sculptors and ceramic artists. It’s best to inquire in advance.

Is it always the same group of Artisans each year?

There is always a core group of Artisans, but the opportunity for sabbatical is always available and many take advantage of it. If you are looking for someone in particular, it’s best to sign up for the emails or check the website each year. Every few years a new artisan or two is added and some members leave or occasionally retire for other pursuits.

Is there a public transportation or private bus tour available to undertake the tour?

This has not been an option in the past, but it is under review for the future.

How is the parking in the residential areas? Do I need a local parking permit?

The Artisans do their best to clear parking areas on their properties and put out appropriate signage. Most are not near beaches or downtowns where permits are required. That being said, it’s best to check when you arrive so as to be respectful of the neighbors whenever possible.

If I want to be considered as an artist, what are the requirements and process?

That information is available via our membership form and application on our About page. One critical piece is that you must have a working studio in Gloucester or Rockport.

What do people say about the tour?

“It is an amazing experience to visit artists in the spaces in which they work. And the spaces that the artists work in are often almost as spectacular as the art itself.”

“We always find new surprises on the tour, whether it is the artwork, the artist, or the locations. I’ve shared the brochure and website with friends and family. Looking forward to the Spring tour!”

“I live here and always feel delighted and proud to be a part of such a vibrant arts community. Keep it going!”

“This was a wonderful tour. We drove at our own pace, artisans were friendly and informative. We were able to pick and choose artisans we wished to see, and could stop at any time for a bite to eat (which were recommended by the artists). We will return again.”

“Artisans are so friendly and welcoming, willing to talk about their creative process–it means so much to buy from someone you know and to appreciate how it was created.”