Marin Tours and Shows

From the Bay to the rugged coastline of the Pacific, from Mt. Tamalpais to the rolling hills of the west county, Marin’s landscape has long been an inspiration for art.

“The light is different; it’s just appealing. The light in Marin…is more atmospheric,” says Mary Welch, cofounder and director of Marin/Scapes art show. “Plus, it’s beautiful in Marin and artists seem to follow beautiful landscapes.”

Throughout May and into June, art lovers can see firsthand the impact Marin has on artists. Three major shows offer the chance to view and purchase art by Marin artists or art about Marin, with each show providing a different experience.

Open Studios

It’s not every day you get to peek inside an artist’s studio, but that uncommon opportunity is precisely what Open Studios provides over the first two weekends in May. About 250 artists from across the county will open their work spaces to the public, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at art in the making.

“It’s almost like walking into a painting,” says Diane Dunn, associate director for the Marin Arts Council, which is organizing the 14th annual event. “You are walking into the experience of the creative process.”

The art covers a range of subjects and is created using all types of media, from drawing and painting to sculpture and jewelry.

Visitors can purchase artwork directly from the artists, which provides the satisfaction of connecting directly with the work’s creator and learning the story behind the piece, Dunn says.

Because there are so many possible studios to visit, organizers recommend doing a little research beforehand. One piece from each artist will be on display at the Open Studios Gallery at the Town Center Corte Madera; the arts council also hosts an online gallery. Free color guides with maps are available at the gallery and at local bookstores.

About 20,000 people are expected to visit artists’ studios over the two weekends.

When: May 5–6: West and North Marin, including Terra Linda; May 12–13: South and Central Marin, including central San Rafael; 11 a.m.–6 p.m. all days.
Where: Individual artists’ studios; pick up guide at Open Studios Gallery, Town Center Corte Madera.
Cost: Free.
More information: 415.499.8350;



Ranches and Rolling Hills

In 1980, a group of ranchers and environmentalists found the beauty of West Marin so inspiring they formed the Marin Agricultural Land Trust to work toward preserving the area’s farmlands for agricultural use. Now artists draw inspiration from the pastoral landscape, with more than 250 of their images for sale at the Ranches and Rolling Hills art show.

Celebrating its tenth year, the show transforms the Druid’s Hall in Nicasio into an art gallery May 19 and 20. Paintings (oil, watercolor and pastel) make up most of the artwork, with some original prints and photographs on display as well. All pieces revolve around the theme of West Marin, yet artists’ interpretations vary. Some are true landscapes, while others might be close-ups of animals. Many are images of the 58 family farms permanently protected by MALT.

“I’ve watched people’s faces as they look at the art, and it’s incredible to see people light up as they see a favorite scene or pieces that are evocative of farming,” says Elisabeth Ptak, associate director of MALT. “It touches people.”

In all, 37 artists will participate in the show, some from Marin and others from Santa Barbara’s respected Oak Group of painters. Half of the sale proceeds go toward MALT’s farmland preservation program. Yet the show raises more than money for the organization.

“We discovered it reached a whole group of people who appreciate art and who didn’t know about MALT,” says Ptak.

When: May 19, 2–5 p.m.; May 20, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Where: Druid’s Hall, Village Square, Nicasio.
Cost: Free. More information: 415.663.1158;






As a board member of Buckelew Programs, an organization to aid those with mental illness, Mary Welch turned to her collection of works by Marin County artists for her fundraising muse. The result was Marin/Scapes, an art show still going strong in its 19th year.

Of the 60 or so artists selected for the show, some are from outside the county, but all the artwork is decidedly Marin-focused. While previously only a landscape show, Marin/Scapes has broadened its scope in recent years and invites artwork of anything Marin-related.

“I’m really trying to push the envelope and get artists to think about Marin in ways they haven’t before,” says Marin/Scapes cofounder and director Welch. “There’s such a variety in Marin; we try to present it all.”
Marin/Scapes features interpretations of Marin’s natural scenery and life as well as the county’s hidden treasures and urban settings. The media used include oil and watercolor paintings, photography, etchings, woodcuts and sculpture. A portion of the proceeds goes to Buckelew Employment Services, which provides job training, placement and coaching for adults with mental illnesses.

A public preview of the show runs May 7 through June 21 at the Bank of Marin in Corte Madera. An artists’ reception will be held June 12; the opening-night gala is June 28. The exhibit and sale begins June 30 and ends July 4.

When: June 30–July 4; noon–6 p.m. Where: Escalle Winery, 771 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur.
Cost: $15 per person, includes refreshments.
More information: 415.457.6966, ext. 732, to purchase tickets to the artists’ reception or opening-night gala;