by Eva Potter

If you enjoy navigating winding country roads that reveal the quaint hamlets and picturesque valleys of Cattaraugus County, then you’re in for a real treat. Begin your backyard adventure with an artistic driving tour of the county on May 18–19, 2013, when the Cattaraugus County Arts Council (CCAC) hosts the sixth annual Routes to Art (RTA) open studio tour. And this year, RTA has the pleasure of welcoming seven new artists.

For those unfamiliar with the event, RTA is a weekend-long, self-guided driving tour of artists’ studios located in various locations throughout the county. This award-winning tour is free and open to the public both days from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

This year CCAC has chosen to make artist locations more accessible to visitors by choosing locations centered around Ellicottville, Salamanca, Little Valley, Cattaraugus and a few outliers in Irving and West Valley.

Thirty-five artists will be showing in their own studios or collectively at other viewing locations. Just look for large lawn signs with the RTA logo marking artist locations and sponsor sites.

Customize your driving route to correspond with the type of work you want to see — you’ll be amazed at the quality and variety of artists in the region. Look or buy — there’s never any pressure.

Artist Eileen Weishan has enjoyed and been involved in art her whole life. To her, creating is a relaxing stress reliever. Weishan has always enjoyed sewing clothes and the details that go into embellishing accessories including stunning scarves and small purses.

“Using the textile pattern and texture, I create purses and scarves embellished with small seed beads that add design, fringe and sparkle,” explained Weishan. “I love the feel and ‘hand’ of various types of textiles.”

Iroquois artist Michael Jones finds joy in the process of creating art, whether it is in clay, music or drawing. He said, “Nature is my wellspring from which I draw my inspiration.”

Newcomer Charlene Kickbush’s inspiration comes from a deep, lifelong appreciation of nature with an innate sense of science, heart and spirit. She uses natural paper and gourds to create her original art.

“I use a variety of gourds including those I’ve raised from seed. Once dried and cleaned, each gourd has its own ‘voice’ and the process begins. All are decorative, many are functional, and all, one of a kind,” explained Kickbush, who also incorporates the gourd pulp into handmade paper fiber she uses as signature pages in her handmade books.

Photography is also richly represented in this year’s RTA tour. “I love to find the soul of an object or in nature and reveal it unexpectedly with up-close and personal photographs,” said Jennifer Bennett Karns, whose subject matter includes nature, architectural elements and landscapes.

Karns, who recently had her own solo show at the Ellicottville Memorial Library, said it has taken her a long time to believe in herself enough to put herself out there. “I just hope to have fun with this first (RTA) experience,” she said.

Multimedia artist Ellen Paquette’s creations bring a new twist to RTA. She has been handcrafting dolls, puppets and plush creatures since childhood. She also expresses her creativity in two-dimensional paintings blending her love of animals and Renaissance art.

This year’s RTA will be pen and ink artist Laurie Chamberlain Andrews’ first public arts experience. Her detailed and photo-like images of Americana, like a kids’ football game, a tribute to the military or a piece of nature, reflect her inspiration.

Last but not least, jewelry artist Elizabeth Jankowski fashions elegant jewelry with a pop culture twist out of found materials, creating beauty out of the mundane.

“I love the uniqueness of Steampunk jewelry, which draws inspiration from the Victorian and industrial ages. In other words, I transform old watches, skeleton keys, clocks and music boxes into wearable pieces of art by taking them apart and putting them back together in beautiful forms,” she explained. “I am looking forward to Routes to Art as a chance to share my jewelry with the community and to meet people who appreciate art in all of its forms.”

Visitors can easily plan their driving routes by picking up our full-color brochure containing a detailed road map with insets showing artist locations, as well as thumbnail sketches and information about each artist on the flipside.

RTA is free to everyone who is ready for a rich and rewarding experience. Just fill up your gas tank and plan your route. And be sure to bring your checkbook, a little extra cash or your credit card, because you’re guaranteed to find something much too special to leave behind.

For more information about Routes to Art or to download a brochure, visit You can also call CCAC at (716) 372-7455 or email Brochures are available at CCAC located at 100 W. Main Street in Allegany, N.Y.

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