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Ellicott City's ArtWalk brings artists and art lovers together

Looking at the figure with its arms outstretched on the outside of Bill Knapp's Studio, brothers Jace, 12, and Anderson, 7, declared it was a gymnast — like the male Olympic gymnasts who do the rings. Their mother, Alexandra Franco, disagreed.

"I thought it was a ballerina," said Franco. "What's amazing is how they take random pieces of junk, maybe trash, and turn it into great stuff."

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Knapp's studio in Ellicott City is full of odds and ends, from his mother's silver to bottoms of roaster pans, that all may some day be featured in one of his artistic creations. On Saturday, his studio and 20 others were open for all to visit as part of Ellicott City Arts Coalition's second annual ArtWalk.

The brainchild of Dee Cunningham , of Deelite Design LLC, Art Walk highlights Ellicott City's collection of artists — a mix of potters, photographers, painters, metal workers and more.

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"So many people … are surprised," Cunningham said, of visitors' reactions to the number of studios. "They always drive by. They never knew.

"We really made an effort getting the word out," she added "It's only the second year doing this and it's been great."

"It's going well," Knapp said. "Actually, I am very surprised. I was concerned with not being connected with the Fall Festival. It seems like we're getting more people for the art this year."

Last year's event was held the same time as a fall festival. This year, the Walk was its own event and though the skies remained gray and an Orioles' play-off game was taking place, a steady stream of people visited the studios to meet with the artists and learn about their individual crafts.

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"I enjoyed it last year, but this year, people have a specific interest in art," said Pam Long, who opened her photography studio over two years ago on Main Street.

"It's a good group of people to work with," Long said, of her fellow artists and merchants. "It's nice to work with them. To see other like-minded people working together for the good of everybody."

To encourage people to visit all participating locations, "passports" were offered. After visiting a studio, participants could receive a stamp in his/her passport. After collecting numerous stamps, they were eligible to win a variety of prizes donated by local merchants, Cunningham said.

Mason Pfau grew up near Ellicott City, but has lived in Philadelphia the last few years. He was thrilled to be able to attend Art Walk for the first time during his visit home.

"I just love finding out we have studios up and down the street," Pfau said. "It's really neat seeing how it's changed."

Jim Brown, of Baltimore, found the day to be "very energizing" and "relaxing."

"Just the ideas people come up with," Brown said. "I was amazed and appreciated it even more after meeting the people (the artists)."

The Ellicott City Partnership provided free use of its Trolley for the event. As its driver, Evelyn Riley, spent the day making the loop from the Lower Main section of Ellicott City to the West End.

"You get to meet all kinds of people. So many nice people," Riley said. "The kids are really excited."

Franco likes how the event excites her children.

"It's not just like shopping when you see the finished product," Franco said. "You see how it is made … and meet the people who made it. It inspires creativity. Then the kids want to try it."

For Kay Sandler, the Walk provides an opportunity to expose her artwork, which fills the walls of her law office.

"I'm a lawyer by day, an artist at night," said Sandler, who discovered her love for painting after taking an art class several years ago. And while she loves to paint flowers, dogs and more, she does not enjoy marketing.

"We've had more people walk in this year than last year," Sandler said. "While I enjoy doing the painting, it's not that much fun trying to market your product."

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