20 Years of NCOS

NCOS 1999 brochure cover1999 NCOS Participating Artists and Maps

North Coast Open Studios was started by local artists Sasha Pepper and Susan Fox, in 1999. The idea was to create an opportunity for visitors to view art, talk with the artists, explore the creative process, and expand their art collections.

Sasha had lived in San Francisco and participated in the Open Studios event, there, before moving to Humboldt, and exploring the idea that a similar event – one that doesn’t revolve around street fairs – could be a good fit, here. Susan had a background in graphic design and drew the original event maps. She also designed the logo that we still use, to this day. Both had art studios in the historic Buhne Building (referred to as the Art Center Building, at the time), in Old Town Eureka, alongside a handful of other artists.

The event started with a one-day, self-guided tour of more than 40 artist studios between Trinidad and Fortuna, and east to Blue Lake. The following year, it expanded to a full weekend and 50 artists. By 2005, North Coast Open Studios was two weekends long, with more than 120 participating artists, and reached down into Southern Humboldt.

After the first few years of the artists both coordinating and participating in the event, they handed over much of the planning to Angeline Schwab, who built up the event in both artist participation and guidebook distribution with the help of local grant funding. This was the beginning of North Coast Open Studios being viewed as a destination tourism event, in addition to a celebration of the local art community.

Taffy Stockton came on-board as coordinator in 2008. Taffy was just starting her own nonprofit consulting business, and hadn’t experienced North Coast Open Studios yet, but she quickly immersed herself in the local art scene. Taffy still owns the amazing art pieces she was lucky enough to acquire during her time with the event, and still attends NCOS even since passing on her duties after the 2013 event.

In 2014, jewelry maker Monica Topping took over the coordinator/head art cheerleader title from Taffy, and NCOS remains one of her favorite annual Humboldt County art events. Since she’s out at the event during its open hours, visiting and photographing as many studios as she can, each year, her own glass studio is open by appointment, outside of the event weekends.

North Coast Open Studios has always relied heavily on artist-volunteers, who assist the coordinator, pour wine and help out with other event fundraisers, reach out to new artist participants, and distribute guidebooks around the county.

The event’s sponsors keep North Coast Open Studios affordable for the artists and FREE to the community.

Without our local artists and visitors, there would be no North Coast Open Studios, so THANK YOU for supporting this community event into (and well beyond!) its 20th year.

A HUGE Thank You to Elaine Benjamin for letting us borrow her archive of past North Coast Open Studios guidebooks and brochures!