Studio that covers the visual arts opens for business |

Studio that covers the visual arts opens for business

Imagine a new 4,000-square-foot facility that provides classes across the complete visual arts spectrum, has artists’ studios and is run more like a business with all the efficiencies that implies than an artists’ cooperative. As If Studio on Idaho Maryland Road in Grass Valley is such a place, and it is having its Open House Friday, 7-9 p.m.

Randy Rigg, 47, of Auburn is the owner. A freelance designer and advertising professional in the mountain bike industry, he says he wanted to marry his lifelong passion for fine art with his 22 years of commercial art experience. He had also wanted for years to start an art school “to offer the type of experience I wish I had had as a teen and young adult.”

First, he identified a clear and present need in the community: “When I was taking a painting class at Sierra College last Spring, we all really enjoyed the inspiration of working in the same room with other artists. Currently, the facilities at Sierra College are only open to enrolled students. Once the class was over at the college, there was a real consensus that the community needed a place for us to gather and continue the camaraderie we had all enjoyed in the class. That is really what planted the seeds for this idea.”

He gives credit to a friend, Sandi Heilman, for her initiative last year in launching the effort from which As If grew. After traveling the West Coast to check out how some similar models worked for ceramic studios and painting studios, Rigg decided to take the plunge, but this time combining the spectrum of visual arts.

“The idea of an artists studio is not original,” he said, “but as far as I know, the idea of combining ceramics, drawing and painting, printmaking, and the more commercial artists services (giclee printer, graphic design & advertising), is unique and original.

Thus, Artist’s studio in the foothills came into being, including the accidental acronym.

“I just thought it was funny to call it As If while in planning,” he said, “but it really took root, grew on everyone and just stuck.”

While most of the artists who rent space here either have a home studio, or could work at home, Rigg says they chose to be involved in his venture because they like the serene communal working environment and the atmosphere: “Atmosphere,” he contends, “is key to creative endeavors.”

Part of As If Studio’s mission is to serve not just as a meeting place for professional artists but as a resource in the community for encouraging and supporting aspiring artists, students, and families. So far nine instructors, from a print maker and portrait painter to large figurative sculptor and a full spectrum ceramist, have signed on to teach.

“I wish when I was starting out that I had had access to established artists who were already involved in the world of art,” says Rigg. ” I am hoping now to provide that experience for others,” adding that “we can only succeed as a business venture by raising the bar of what’s been available in the county, and exceeding expectations.”

A worthy goal, indeed.

Friday’s Open House includes live music by John Girton, potter’s wheel demonstrations by Josh Unterman, refreshments and a tour of the facility with its studios, classrooms and gallery of work by resident artists and instructors.


WHAT: As If Studio Grand Opening and Open House

WHEN: Friday, 7-9 p.m.

WHERE: 940 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley (between W. Main Street and Sutton Way, nearer Sutton)


INFORMATION: Call (530) 274-7000; e-mail

How the community can use As If Studio

“People can simply take a class, or they can pay a small monthly amount to become a member,” says Rigg, “and have access to the facility and get half-price on the classes. We’re also a place that can be used by people in the community to conduct their own classes, workshops or lectures.”

Beth Gaydos, an As If ceramics studio member, says, “I love spending time here making ceramics. I’ve got everything I need…”I’ve felt right at home from the very start. It’s like a gym membership for artists, but more fun and less expensive!”

Membership is open to all and includes open studio access from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Workshops and classes offered include ceramics, painting, drawing and printmaking. Students who are enrolled in classes are offered open studio time to continue working on class assignments and personal projects. A parent/child program is also under development.

The studio includes a wide range of modern equipment, including Thomas Stuart wheels for throwing clay, a brand new Griffin Press for printmaking, and a large format Giclée printer for reproducing artist’s paintings and prints.

The studio currently houses nine resident artists in six spaces.

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