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Meet the artists behind The masterpieces

The third weekend of July in Sequim is reserved for adventures galore.

In addition to the popular Lavender Festival, Sequim Arts is hosting its fourth annual self-guided studio tour. Twenty-four artists in the area - as far west as Old Olympic Highway and east as Chicken Coop Road - will open their studios to guests from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 16-17, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, July 18.

It's the largest tour yet and, believe it or not, it's free to the public.

For Metal & Mud sculptor Dana Hyde, the event is a chance to say goodbye. After years of working as a professional artist, Hyde is pursuing a career in the medical field. She's already completed her prerequisites and is applying to colleges in several states to become a physician's assistant. Long term, Hyde said she plans to achieve the two-year degree necessary to work in an orthopedic or dermatology office and return to the Olympic Peninsula. In the meantime, she is closing the studio and selling its entire inventory.

"It's been very interesting to juggle school and work," Hyde said.

"After spending years as a 'starving artist,' I'm going to get a 'real' job and save art for my passion."

The weekend is a new beginning for another artist on tour. Alexandra Colman, known by family and friends as "Lexie," will celebrate the grand opening of her custom-built studio. Colman studied art in Paris, France, and spent years teaching the subject - including at Peninsula College in Port Angeles. She specializes in abstract landscapes and seascapes. Opening a home studio is a dream come true for the retired teacher who swears "there's an artist hiding inside everybody."

Roberta Cooper, owner of Gorgeous Gourds studio, specializes in a unique art form that involves painting and carving gourds - hard-skinned, fleshy fruit related to cucumbers and squash. During the tour, Cooper will demonstrate how to bind pine needles to the rim of a gourd.

"Come watch me transform gourds into art!" she encouraged.

Cynthia Thomas, event director and artist on tour, described the tour as a way to "bring art to the community and the community to artists."

"This isn't about buying art," Thomas said. "It's educational, enlightening and fun!"

"It's a nice way to explore the area with an exciting destination at the end of the road," added fellow artist Liz Harper.

A few studios will feature multiple artists - artists who want to be on tour but aren't equipped with a large enough studio. Susan Shaw, Mary Franchini and Lynne Armstrong will team up at Shaw's Rock Hollow Farm off East Silberhorn Road. The threesome call themselves "the barn dwellers" and promise visitors a good time, encouraging families and couples to pack a lunch and dine at the outdoor picnic tables.

Tickets will be for sale at each site for a raffle drawing. Each artist is donating a piece of work valued at least $65. Sequim Arts officials will announce winners at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 18. The group is paying shipping for out-of-town winners.

More information, detailed artist biographies with links to individual Web sites, and a studio map are available online at http://sequimarts.org/tour2010.

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