Scenic route

North Tahoe Arts ARTour

Judith Buckingham, left, and Joann Lippert discuss artwork in the North Tahoe Art Center in Tahoe City.

Judith Buckingham, left, and Joann Lippert discuss artwork in the North Tahoe Art Center in Tahoe City.

Photo by AMY BECK

North Tahoe Arts hosts ARTour, a self-guided driving tour of artists’ studios, July 12-15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. A related exhibit takes place at North Tahoe Arts Center, 380 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, Calif., until July 30. Gallery hours are Wednesdays-Mondays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call (530) 581-2787 or visit

How’s this for a day trip? Nature and culture all in one shot, the aromas of pine and turpentine all over the Truckee/North Lake Tahoe area.

ARTour, the annual artists’ open-studios event sponsored by North Tahoe Arts, takes place July 13-16. Visitors can pick up an event map, then plot their courses for a self-guided driving tour to the region’s art studios and galleries.

ARTour’s been around for 19 years, and if you talk to executive director Kellie Cutler, it sounds like the time-tested event is more in a groove than a rut.

Since taking the helm of the organization in 2011, Cutler has put a lot of her efforts into increasing the public’s exposure to the arts in general and to ARTour.

“What we wanted to do this year is make it a little more community inclusive,” she says.

In addition to the 28 glass artists, ceramicists, jewelers, photographers, and, of course, landscape painters on the tour, North Tahoe Arts has partnered with area businesses in the hope of accommodating visitors who want to map out a whole day of mingling and browsing.

Rookies, a sports bar in Incline Village, is offering ARTour breakfast specials.

“We’re adding an exhibit space at The Boatworks Mall in Tahoe City,” Cutler adds.

On behalf of art fans who want to plan a full-day outing, RN&R called Carla Bebe of Truckee for insider tips. She’s attended the previous 18 ARTour events; her husband Tom is a woodworking artist who’ll share his studio with five other artists, thus making his studio a major tour stop, and she’s ARTour’s social media coordinator.

First off, says Bebe, feel free to keep your expectations high: “While these are local artists, there are many nationally known, award-winning artists on the tour. I wouldn’t miss Andy Skaff out in Tahoma for anything!” He makes vibrant landscape paintings of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the West and shows them in San Francisco.

Bebe also advises, “I always go with friends.” She and her friends traditionally time their excursion so they can drop by Jake’s on the Lake in Tahoe City for lunch. The restaurant is another of this year’s tour sponsors, and it’s in The Boatworks Mall, near the exhibit space.

Tip No. 3: In each studio, keep an eye out for an open laptop. Most of the participating artists plan to show a continuous slideshow featuring work by all 28. They’ll also show photos of each artist at work, and the photos are grouped by area, especially handy for those seeking an abridged version of the tour or those who want to limit their visits to one city, one neighborhood, or one art medium.

For ultra-fine-tuned itinerary planning, we also checked in with Ron Treabess, Director of Community Partnerships and Planning for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, to inquire optimistically about the possibility of a lighter traffic load on this post-holiday weekend. No go, says Treabess.

“Lodging statistics are up real solid” for ARTour weekend. Booked lodging historically means slowed roadways, so stock up on travel snacks, gas and patience in advance.

But if you’re going to be stuck in traffic, in between art studios around the northern half of the Lake with a carful of buddies isn’t a bad place to do it.

As Bebe points out, it’s not every open studios event that’s located on an officially designated scenic byway. She adds, “You could hardly pick a more beautiful place to drive from studio to studio.”