Open Studios, Inc.

A nonprofit organization

61 donors

The mission of Open Studios is to advance and enrich the visual arts and promote the role of artists in the Boulder County community.

Open Studios is more than just the annual studio tour. Since 1995, the organization has grown to encompass numerous programs and projects designed to raise awareness and appreciation of art in our community. Over the last 25 years, Open Studios has become the most comprehensive visual arts organization in Boulder County, including five different programs:

• Open Studios Tour

• Boulder Plein Art Festival (BPAF)

• POP! Gallery

• EdLinks Art Education with Boulder Valley School District

• Mobile Art Lab


The mission of Open Studios is to advance and enrich the visual arts and promote the role of artists in the Boulder County community.

Background Statement

Open Studios was an idea whose time had come: It was the mid-90s and Boulder had a large community of artists but precious few art galleries and a nascent cultural scene. Persuading the artists to open their studios for a couple weekends in the fall would facilitate a connection with the public. Artists would gain welcome exposure for their work, the studio tourists would meet the artists in a friendly and non-intimidating environment, and everyone would benefit from the experience. In the process, some art might change hands. In hindsight, it seems a no-brainer, but it took a zealous persuader and organizer to get it off the ground. Gary Zeff, then recently retired from a marketing career with Eastman Kodak and an enthusiastic woodworker, used as model the successful Santa Cruz, California, Open Studios. He organized Boulder’s Open Studios Fall Artists Tour in 1994 and launched it the next year with 84 artists. From the beginning, the nonprofit has relied for its success on an army of volunteers and a dedicated board of directors; nonetheless, Gary’s own art-making had to take a back seat as he focused his energies on nurturing the operation for its first 14 years.

On the threshold of its third decade, the organization has been revisiting its vision, goals, and strategies. The arts environment has significantly changed since Gary founded the organization, and in many ways, the success of his Open Studios tours is responsible. The citizens have indeed become more aware of art and the importance of encouraging it in our community and in our lives; they have come to understand that art is critical to our well-being, and that making it or viewing it offers a unique kind of pleasure. A goodly number of the early Open Studios participants have become successful artists, making a living with their art, and many of them have inspired younger or newer artists through their support, teaching, and encouragement. The result is a robust and ever-renewing community of artists, which again was one of the founding goals of Open Studios. Unsurprisingly, the studio tour concept has been copied in several neighboring towns.

As Boulder has developed into an artists’ haven, inevitably the city has become saturated with art-focused nonprofits that serve artists and art appreciators. In fact, the cultural health of the city is strong: Boulder is today home to more than 130 registered nonprofit cultural organizations, and creative professionals living and working in Boulder make up nearly nine percent of the population. However, funding for the arts has not grown nearly as fast as the number of funding-seekers. The future of the arts in Boulder in general, and of Open Studios in particular, depends somewhat on what kind of support the city offers—for example whether it decides to provide low-cost studio spaces for artists. Otherwise, artists may abandon the city for more affordable space elsewhere. Planning for the future is always a challenge, but Open Studios has a huge advantage in its constituency of artists: they are bright, optimistic, enthusiastic, and best of all, creative. It’s their nature to think outside the box, to color outside the lines. We don’t know exactly what the future will look like, but it will be beautiful—and the road trip will be an exciting and fun adventure.

Organization Data


Organization name

Open Studios, Inc.

Year Established


Tax id (EIN)



Arts, Culture & Humanities, Education

Organization Size

Medium Organization



Service areas

Boulder County, CO, US


(303) 444-1862

Social Media