This year’s Southern Highlands Arts Festival stacked up the numbers.
For four days over two weekends, 44 studios in the Highlands opened their doors and gates to the public as part of the feature event of the festival, the ‘Art Studio Trail’.
More than 1100 individual visitors made 6756 visits to studios along the trail, which they mostly discovered through word of mouth and signs pitched on street corners.
This was an increase of 13 per cent since 2016.
Highlanders accounted for 73 per cent visitors, and 27 per cent were from outside the region.
It was an opportunity for the public to explore the creative dwellings of local artists, and for the artists to share their habitats and processes with their community.
Sculptor Thomas Bucich participated in this year’s arts trail for the third time, after living in the Highlands on and off for the past five years.
He said the experience was a “fantastic” way to give back to the arts community and connect with art enthusiasts from home and afar.
“I would encourage other artists who haven’t shown to open their studios,” he said.
“I think a lot of [artists] are afraid to open up their studios because as an artist your work space is really personal.
“But I found that visitors were really appreciative to be able to see an artist’s space.
“It gives the average viewer a new way to view art other than what they usually see in a gallery. It shows them the context that the art was made in, the environment in which it was created, which can give them an extra level of meaning.”
Mr Bucich said he had since been delivering artwork sold over the two weekends to households in Sydney, Kangaroo Valley and Melbourne.
Statistics tallied by council showed that 65 per cent of non-local visitors came from Sydney, 31 per cent from regional and country areas in NSW and 4 per cent from interstate and overseas.
They also estimated that about $46,000 was made from the sale of artist’s work.
One of the event organisers, council’s cultural development officer Jenny Kena, said it was the biggest year yet for the arts festival, which the organisers hope to grow with the help of technology.
“It’s gradually reaching further afield,” she said.
“We are now looking at ways to make it easier for people to plan to their art trail.
“So we are considering the development of an app to enable people to personalise their art trail by choosing the studios they want to visit.”