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Silicon Valley Open Studios Puts Local Artists on the Map

Silicon Valley Open Studios Puts Local Artists on the Map Silicon Valley Open Studios Puts Local Artists on the Map

Silicon Valley Open Studios (SVOS) has been putting artists on the map for 30 years, connecting those who appreciate unique, handmade art with creative artists who live just down the block or around the corner in residential neighborhoods in about 30 cities.

This year, more than 350 artists displayed their art in their home studios in cities from Burlingame to Morgan Hill and Moss Beach to Santa Clara. Each city was scheduled to have open houses on one of the first three weekends in May. In Santa Clara, on May 21 and 22, there were three featured artists, plus a collective showing at Mission College.

Colored pencil and graphic artist Denise J. Howard ( draws at her home on a cul-de-sac in Santa Clara. Despite rain Saturday, art enthusiasts–including neighbors–dropped by to admire Howard’s drawings, which are so detailed and lifelike they look like photos.


“I love that residents are able to display their talents,” says Howard’s neighbor Cynthia Thomas, who had previously purchased butterfly and flower drawings. “It gives neighbors and the greater community the opportunity to meet artists within our community and see their beautiful work.”

Howard, president of the northern California chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America, draws her subjects from a selection of 16,000 photos she has taken. Included are scenes of the Missouri farm where she grew up.

“The great thing for both the artists and visitors is that you can have a more intimate conversation about the artists and how they work, and you have the opportunity to see where they work,” says Howard, a 5-year SVOS participant. “That’s an experience you can’t get from exhibiting at a festival.”

An added pleasure of Open Studios is visiting interesting homes. Fine art photographer Suzan Siltaniemi ( welcomed art seekers to her Victorian-flavored, blue house with hot pink and white trim.

Many of Siltaniemi’s images reflect her extensive international travels from Tokyo to Paris and growing up in a Finnish community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Fifty framed, high-contrast color and black and white images hang on every inch of wall space in her living and dining rooms, turning her home into an informal, year-round gallery.

Siltaniemi, a SVOS participant since 2005, enjoys showing her images, which she prints herself, at home because it is convenient and she has space to show a lot of her work at one time.

“Thinking about the public looking at something makes you go through the selection process and decide what to show,” says Siltaniemi, noting that digital photos never leave the computers of many photographers.

Naomi Craig ( is a mosaic artist who showed her art to the public for the first time.

“I’ve been going to Open Studios as an art lover for years, and then just decided I wanted to do it and this was the year,” says Craig, who was inspired to do mosaic art after seeing “so much fantastic mosaic art” on a 2003 trip to Europe.

Craig incorporates found items in decorative mosaic pieces such as colorful, ornate skulls reminiscent of the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration and mirrors framed with antique broaches, chain necklaces and pieces of old china plates.

“I’m not afraid to break a plate,” says Craig, who uses wheeled nippers to do the cutting and always has a supply of band aids on hand for the inevitable “little nicks here and there.”

A five-foot-long, blue-tiled shark with colored daisies is a testament to a fascination with sharks that has nothing to do with the San Jose Sharks.

“I start with a general pattern in mind, and the materials help me figure it out,” says Craig. “It’s organized randomness.”

For those who prefer one-stop viewing, Mission College was the place to go for its annual Art and Design Open House, scheduled to coincide with Santa Clara’s SVOS weekend. In addition to students showing art and jewelry, there were live demonstrations of bronze casting and hands-on workshops for those who wanted to create an object d’art of their own.

Visit to view a catalogue listing 2016 artists, for information on SVOS classes and tips on pricing and selling artwork. SVOS may be over for 2016 but the artists would still welcome showing their art.


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