Clark County artists open their studios to the public

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



Learn More:

The Artist Loft:

Lesley Faulds:

Arts of Clark County:

If You Go

What: Clark County Open Studios tour, featuring 53 local artists working in every medium.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 11-12.

Cost: Free.

On the web: Maps and information at

Despite this year’s closure of Vancouver’s popular, community-minded North Bank Artists Gallery, the Main Street artistic scene is looking up.

Up and to the right, that is. Two doors south of the former North Bank and up a flight of stairs (over Rosemary’s Cafe) is where painter Lesley Faulds has launched The Artist Loft, an affordable new studio and gallery space. The Artist Loft will be open Nov. 11 and 12 during the fifth annual Open Studios Tour sponsored by Arts of Clark County. That’s a weekend-long, self-guided opportunity to meet your artistic neighbors and learn where, how and even why they create their art.

For Faulds, the “why” is the fulfillment of a childhood dream that her very practical parents warned her about. “They didn’t encourage me” in the direction of anything so frivolous as art, she said. “And they were right. Most artists do other work and do this on the side. You don’t get into art to start a business. You want to spend your time creating, not selling.”

Still, you can’t fault their practicality; Faulds’ father was a hardworking British farmer whose venture failed. “We couldn’t make it,” Faulds said. That’s why, 40 years ago, she immigrated to America with all of $100 in her pocket, she said.

Faulds worked as an event planner, married and raised a family, went back to college and started a second career as a psychiatric nurse; eventually an injury put a stop to that. About a decade ago, Faulds returned to her childhood passion and started taking lessons in acrylic and oil painting. She’s especially attracted to what’s called grisaille, a monochrome technique emphasizing stately gray in a way that resembles sculpture and recalls some of the European “old masters,” she said.

But she wasn’t connected to other artists, she said, and worked at home in a cramped space. “I wanted to stand back from my artwork,” she said. So, she launched the first version of The Artist Loft in the north tower of the Academy building. It was a great space, but “nobody could find me,” she said. Plus, she “felt like Quasimodo” going up and down the stairs.

When she moved to Main Street this past summer, a half-dozen of her initial member artists moved with her, and a half-dozen more have joined since. Now, The Artist Loft is a busy studio that “tidies up once a month” to become a gallery, Faulds said with a laugh.

She never expected to be a gallery owner, but Faulds is finding that role a good fit. She loves welcoming young artists and encouraging their work, she said; look for a show at The Artist Loft exhibiting young artists in March of next year.

“Every artist is somewhere on their journey,” she said. “You don’t know where you’re meeting them on their journey, because we’re all evolving. I love that aspect of art.”

Plan your journey

Fifty different Clark County studios featuring 53 working artists will welcome the public on Nov. 11 and 12; you can study their styles and witness their techniques in painting, printmaking, sculpture, glass, ceramics, jewelry, fiber arts, photography and much more.

“After five years, I’m still surprised by the number of new artists applying and participating,” said event director and Ridgefield painter Jennifer Williams. This year, 19 artists are entirely new to the event.

Because so many are participating, visiting every artist is pretty much impossible. Organizers recommend you plan your journey via the website, where there are artist thumbnails and website links as well as an interactive map that groups all the studios into geographic chunks: north, central, south and east. Even better, pick up the free tour guidebook available at sponsor businesses, including The Artist Loft as well as other downtown locations in Vancouver, Camas and Ridgefield.

“People love to get a look behind the scenes of the creative process,” Williams said. “And if you plan on shopping for art, there is nothing more gratifying than knowing the artist.”