How We Started

The ARTsee founders, Caren Frost Olmsted and Gail Mardfin.

The ARTsee founders, Caren Frost Olmsted and Gail Mardfin.

ARTsee was founded upon the fortuitous meeting of two talented artists, Caren Frost Olmsted and Gail Mardfin.  For several years, Caren had been living and teaching art in Asheville, North Carolina — a city which has been called “The Paris of the South.” While in Asheville, Caren felt surrounded by art, constant creativity, and the inspiration that fellow artists provide — all things that she missed dearly after moving back north to her hometown of Basking Ridge, NJ.

In 2010 Caren was introduced by a mutual friend to Gail Mardfin, a painter and collage artist, former art teacher, and resident of the neighboring town of Bernardsville. Understanding the value of gathering visual creators together, Caren proposed to her new friend, “How’dya like to start an artists’ studio tour with me?”  And the rest was history!

The two knew that the Basking Ridge/Bernardsville area was bound to have more talented artists who would also like to celebrate the art in their community, so with each possessing strong organizational skills, the teamwork began…

Artists Seeking Artists

In their attempt to round up more area artists, Gail and Caren posted flyers in local coffee shops and ran an article in the paper.  Before long there were enough artists to create the first ARTsee Open Studio Tour.  Like a garden tour or historical house tour, each autumn since 2011, 18 to 24 participating artists have opened their home studios or area art centers to hundreds of visitors.  On the ARTsee Open Studio Tour visitors go inside the working spaces of painters, photographers, ceramicists, jewelers, and more. These visual creators are welcoming, happy to answer questions about the processes they use, and to sell their work to the public.

Throughout the year, monthly meetings are held in ARTsee members’ homes or studios, where information about exhibitions, workshops, marketing, and new ideas can be shared, and critical feedback on works in progress can be solicited. The group continues to attract more artists, with leadership changing from year to year.

2013 Mayor’s Art Organization Award

The group accepting the Mayor's Art Organization Award in 2013

The group accepting the Mayor's Art Organization Award in 2013

On March 24, 2013 the Mayor of Bernards Township, Carolyn Gaziano, presented the Mayor’s Art Award to ARTsee for its grassroots community organization with the mission of building camaraderie among local artists, promoting vibrancy, growth, awareness and education in the visual arts through Open Studio Tours, group exhibitions, community art projects, workshops and overall town-wide awareness. Gail and Caren accepted the award on behalf of all ARTsee members.