Moveable East

The Edwardsville-Alton Studio Tour is worth the drive

"This event is not for the faint of heart," claims Susan Bostwick, one of the coordinators for this year's Art EAST, Edwardsville-Alton Studio Tour. "You have to be willing to do some hiking!" Indeed, visitors to the two-day event could, if so inclined, use it as an opportunity to get in shape while getting a dose of culture. Now in its fifth year, Art EAST is bigger than ever, including venues at twelve sites in Alton and a record 21 sites in Edwardsville, Illinois.

If you're game, start off the self-guided tour at either the Children's Museum (727 Holyoake Road in Edwardsville) or Mississippi Mud (310 East Broadway in Alton). Pick up the map and you're off and running (or walking, or driving, as the case may be). Both cities offer a wide array of choices, including open artists' studios, hands-on activities and demonstrations, and group exhibitions of every artistic medium from oil painting to glass to photography to textiles and book arts. If it sounds a little overwhelming, it is. The "faint of heart" might have to be selective, because there may just be too much to see and do in two days. There are, however, some highlights that shouldn't be missed.

In Alton, Ken Barnett will demonstrate raku firing techniques at Mississippi Mud. Robert Thornberry, a frequent St. Louis exhibitor, opens his studio and invites visitors in to take a gander at his fragile, dreamlike mixed-media works. And a new venue on the Art EAST schedule is City Art Loft, above Steve's Antiques on Broadway, which hosts a group exhibition.

Also new in Alton this year is a group show at the Milton School. No longer a working school, the Milton School became a commercial art studio but is now home to a variety of artists who rent studio space and make use of its equipment. Exhibitors in this show include Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville alums Aaron Gondek, Mary Levi and Andrew Marsh. Art EAST insiders report that the Milton School show is "must-see."

In Edwardsville, the selection of art events is even bigger. New venues this year include Henderson Associates Architects, which is hosting a group photography exhibition, and the Bohm Building on Main Street, where you'll find three separate group exhibitions packed into three floors. In the offices of, in the Bohm Building's first floor, sculptor Ned Giberson and painters Elizabeth Adams Marks and Mark Sova offer something unusual: a chance to get your portrait rendered by any of the three artists. (Tickets for the drawing are $3; contact Art EAST for details.)

Edwardsville events also spill onto the campus of SIUE, where you'll find exhibitions in the Lovejoy Library and the New Wagner Gallery at the Art and Design Building. If you've still got some energy, take the trip to the Watershed Nature Center to see the sculptural collaboration by Bruce Lowry and Dennis Ringering, then walk the paths through the Center's lush woodlands. And if all that hiking makes you thirsty, finish off your Art EAST experience with a trip to another of Edwardsville's significant cultural institutions, the Stagger Inn.