For the 11th time, Sierra Art Trails returns in what has become the art highlight of the year for the Yosemite foothills.
This year's event, which kicks off today and continues through Sunday, will feature 108 artists. Here's a rundown:
How it works: For $18, you buy a catalog for the event (one for every two people) that includes maps and a guide to various studios in Mariposa, Ahwahnee, North Fork, Oakhurst, Coarsegold and Yosemite Lakes Park. Most of the sites include three to five artists, which allows you to see more art with less driving time.
Days and hours: All sites are open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but not all sites are open today, so be sure to check the catalog. You set your own schedule and route.
What you can expect: At some sites, you'll get a chance to watch artists at work in home studios and workshops. Other sites have more of a retail environment. The common theme at all sites is the ability to meet artists. You also get to see some some pretty amazing mountain homes.
For beginners: Best bet is Gallery Row in Oakhurst. The Stellar Gallery, at 40982 Highway 41, serves as home base. There, you'll find a preview exhibit that includes examples of work from participating artists, and from there you can plan your route. You can also buy a catalog.
Viewing strategies: Some organized people — we'll call them the map readers — like to plan out every stop in advance. Others just like to drive, looking for the bright Art Trails signs along Highways 41 and 49. Three "trails" are listed in the catalog: one featuring Coarsegold, Yosemite Lakes Park and O'Neals; one featuring Oakhurst and North Fork; and one featuring Ahwahnee and Mariposa.
Some suggested stops: Here are a few of my recommendations:
Carolyn Hartling Home Studio: Retired from a career in interior design, she now focuses on watercolors and pastels. Her spectacular Coarsegold house is on the banks of the Fresno River.
Anita Stoll Home Studio: Long a favorite local artist of mine, Stoll's pastels waver between representations of nature and abstraction. (And she always gives away M&Ms.)
Slim's Koffee Shak: This North Fork stop, which this year features works by married artists Michelle Sonoqui Gillette and Craig Schub, is a great place to view art and relax with a beverage.
Burdick Home Studio: Don't miss this beautiful Coarsegold setting and some gorgeous watercolors.
KT-Lee Alpaca Ranch: If you have some less-than-serious art lovers along with you on your trip, a stop here along Road 274 to see the alpacas will keep them busy while you check out the sculpture and woodworking.
Queen's Inn: If there's a social center to Sierra Art Trails, this Oakhurst inn is it — especially when the wine bar is open.
Kris Kessey Home Studio: A charming stop along Highway 49 in Ahwahnee includes Norma Rogers, Kathy Marks and Edward Gillum.
Bob Boomer Home Studio: This Ahwahnee stop is a great place to visit if you're interested in Western-themed art.
David and Charlotte Hoffman Home Studio: This Mariposa outpost is one of the farthest stops from Fresno — and well worth the trip.
Bring your checkbook: For many Art Trails artists, the weekend is an important one for them monetarily. Remember: Christmas is just around the corner.
Details: sierraarttrails.org, (559) 658-8844.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, firstname.lastname@example.org and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.