Get an insider's look at Foster artists' studios this weekend

Get an insider's look at Foster artists' studios this weekend

FOSTER - She is an artist and she works in a beautiful place.

But sometimes it can get lonely when your only companions are eight Scotch Highland cattle.

Nancy Boyden won't, however, be lonely Saturday, Nov. 2, when she opens her studio to visitors as part of the "Arts in the Making" self-guided tour of 10 artists' studios located in Glocester, Foster and Scituate. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free.

In addition to Boyden, a photographer, painter, framer and teacher, the other nine artists cover the gamut of creative pursuits, working in such diverse areas as metal sculpture, glass, high-fire porcelain, illustration, stone-carving, oil painting, watercolor and abstract acrylic.

They belong to the Artist Open Studios group, which for 12 years has been opening the doors of their workplaces in northwest Rhode Island to visitors once a year so people can see what they do and how they do it. "There are as many styles and concepts as there are mediums," says a brochure for the event, "which means there is something for everyone within reach of a comfortable drive."

Boyden, who teaches art at Ponaganset High School, lives and works at the Gorham Family Farm on Cucumber Hill Road, close to the Connecticut border. Her home, which she shares with husband Bob and daughter Campbell, dates from 1790 and was once the Gorham family homestead, about 50 years ago. It is a working farm, surrounded by 120 acres of woodland that her family, the Gorhams, have protected from development in perpetuity.

Boyden's studio is steps away from her front door. In spite of its small size (it was formerly a corn crib), the two-story building has a roofed front porch facing south - warm even in winter, Boyden says - and an ample working area on the first floor, well-lit with four windows. A space heater warms the room and a thick Persian rug hugs the wooden floor. An L-shaped work bench fills two corner walls, near a rack of the tools Boyden uses to mount and mat pictures. Her framed photos and paintings stand out on the natural-wood walls.

Outside, the scene is as bucolic as it could be. Wide stone walls have been in place for centuries. The house, the barn, the studio and the other outbuildings are painted the deepest dark red we associate with colonial times. A pond and a grassy meadow complete the picture, along with eight head of Scotch Highland cattle imported from the Scottish Highlands and raised for their beef. These cattle are not like the cows you usually see in New England, but are exceptionally large, hairy, horned beasts with long, flowing manes of a russet color.

On an October day, the creatures are curious and they stand in a row to eye a visitor suspiciously. At last year's open-studio event, Boyden said, the cattle stationed themselves right next to her studio, keeping as wary an eye on visitors as the latter did on them. "They're wonderful," Boyden said of the Scotch cattle, "they don't need shelter" because they're protected from the elements by their extra-thick fur coats.

The daughter of Brad Gorham, a well known local attorney and former state legislator, Nancy grew up on the family farm, leaving to attend Lake Forest College in Illinois and then, in her 20s, living four years in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "An older couple took me under their wing," she recalled. "I worked at an art gallery, and that's where I learned framing and how to run a small business."

Although time constraints have led her to cultivate her interest in photography, "my passion is painting," Boyden said, and she will be working as a painter in oils during the open-studio visits Nov. 2. Last year, her first open studio, about 75 people visited.

"I did pretty well," she said. "I was surprised at how many people came by, a lot of families." Her art work will be on sale, framed photos and paintings, along with packets of note cards fronted with photos she's taken of landscapes and the ocean.

The open-studios event is a unique way for people to find out about local artists and the work they do, she suggested. "It's an opportunity to see a photographer or a painter at work, to see what a framing studio is all about," Boyden said. And besides, she admits wryly, as a teacher for the last 15 years, "I feel like I've got to practice what I preach."