With simultaneous events in Jim Thorpe and Blue Mountain Ski Resort, Carbon County's largest open studio and art exhibition will serve as the epicenter of art in Pennsylvania this weekend.
The free Carbon County Art Odyssey runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Parking is available at Blue Mountain Ski Resort and at the Carbon County Parking Lot near the Jim Thorpe Train Station, where many exhibits are within walking distance, or at outlying studios where parking is available.
The Odyssey presents exhibits and demonstrations of works and techniques of painting, ceramics, photography, stained glass, flameworked glass, jewelry and woodworking by over 50 local artists, sculptures and artisans who will discuss their works and, in many cases, demonstrate their techniques.
The Carbon County Art Odyssey is the brainchild of Eileen East, a jewelry artist who, along with her husband, industrial designer and glass artist Nic East, operate a stained glass and fused glass studio at their Hill Home Forge Bed & Breakfast in Jim Thorpe.
The Easts sell the majority of their work to guests at their B&B, often coming to take classes with the artists. "We usually sell to people who come here and see our work," said Eileen.
"I realized that most artists in Carbon County sold their work the same way," she continued. "I thought that if people come to an art event, and see something that they like, they are going to take something home. But, it is hard to get people to come for just one artist."
Every chance they had, the Easts would visit Art Walks in Allentown, Stroudsburg and Montrose. They remember that Jim Thorpe art gallery owner, Maria Feliz, organized an annual Jim Thorpe Art Walk that ran for four years. Eileen felt that there was a need for artists and art collectors to have a convenient way to get to know one another. She felt there was a vacuum to fill, not only in Jim Thorpe but for all of Carbon County.
"I feel Carbon County is under represented in the art collecting population," said Eileen. "We have artists here who are well known in their fields and have a following but people don't associate them with Carbon County."
She seemed to have focused on a problem that artists all over the county were sensing, particularly in the current economic doldrums. She discussed it with fellow artists Marianne Monteleone, Richard DeFeo, Joel Lebow, Marge Reppert and Randall Sellers. They agreed.
Next, Eileen and Monteleone asked for and received support from the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce. They agreed to allow the Odyssey to operate for the first year as a Chamber Committee. This allowed the group to have a central treasury and apply for grants.
They received support from Rep. Keith McCall, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts who provided a grant, offers of help, and letters of approval that commended the Odyssey on responding to an artistically underserved region of Pennsylvania.
"It was almost magical to have this small idea have such strong support," Eileen said.
"The Odyssey solves a big problem among collectors," Nic East noted, "not all collects understand how art is created. Since we have such a variety of art in Carbon County, we are able to show, demonstrate and reveal some of the mystery behind the creation of art."
For instance, Nic will be demonstrating the technique of flameworking glass rods into designer beads. These Eileen uses in the creation of her ear rings, bracelets and pins. They will also offer a tour of Hill Home Forge, their B&B which is a showcase of Nic's work and is reminiscent of the glasswork in the Prairie Home designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.
"So many artists climbed on board and are still calling me," noted Eileen. "I find this pent-up need on the part of the art community to do something. I'm hoping there will be an alchemy that will produce a good result. She's expecting to draw over 300 art lovers to the two day event.
For additional information, see: www.carboncountyartists.com  or call (570) 325-0216.