A Gallery View

Each spring, Minnetonka artists open up their studios to give residents a glimpse behind the scenes
Stombaugh, artist on the Lake Minnetonka Studio Art Tour.

Looking for an under-the-radar sign of spring? The annual Lake Minnetonka Studio Art Tour may just be the perfect event. Every spring, more than 25 artists get together to showcase not only their work, but also their workspaces around the lake area. For the past several years, local artists have been giving residents a glimpse into their home studios.

We spoke to a few artists taking part in the tour this year on May 2 and 3.

Marla Mullaney

“I can hardly remember when I didn’t do art,” Marla Mullaney says. “When I was a little kid I always made art. It was a focus for me in high school, and I actually sold my first piece in high school.”

Mullaney studied art at the University of Minnesota before moving to California and furthering her education there at several schools, including UCLA. After graduating, art remained part of her life, sometimes as a main focus and sometimes as a side gig. She was a graphic designer when she was younger, but moved away from that profession as it moved more into the digital space.

Now Mullaney focuses on her art full time, predominantly working on oil paintings and jewelry. Most of her work focuses on local scenes. “I am so inspired by this Lake Minnetonka area,” she says. “It’s amazing.”

Often, Mullaney will take her easel and supplies and set herself up to paint what is in front of her. She is an impressionistic painter, meaning she focuses more on the essence of a portrait rather than simply what she sees in front of her. “I try to capture how that scene makes me feel,” Mullaney says. “I don’t concentrate on depicting it literally or realistically.”

Mullaney loves showing off her Excelsior studio during the art tour each year.

Karen Stombaugh

Growing up on a farm, Karen Stombaugh had no formal training, but she always loved art.

“I’ve always been an artist since I was a little kid,” Stombaugh says. Until 2006, when she retired from a career in nursing, art was always on the periphery. She obtained a fine arts degree from the University of Minnesota by taking night classes, and now that she doesn’t have a full-time job, Stombaugh has more time to focus on her work.

She mostly works on soft pastel drawings. “I got entranced by the colors and all the possibilities with textures and what can be done with them,” she says. Most of her pieces are nature-inspired, and she is working toward signature status with the Pastel Society of America, which would give her some of the highest credentials in her craft.

For the art tour, she gets the chance to show off a unique space. Stombaugh’s studio is located on her property, but is separate from her home. Surrounded by gardens, it offers visitors a lush background for viewing her work.

Patty Carmody Smith

Patty Carmody Smith was one of the many artists on the tour who simply used the space she had at home for an art studio. Up until 2010, that meant working out of an unfinished basement.

Then she had the basement remodeled and turned into her own gallery. Modern and clean, with her work displayed on the walls, Carmody Smith has a beautiful studio gallery that she loves sharing. “Now that I’ve finished the space, people can have a real experience when they come.”

Carmody Smith has taken part in the Lake Minnetonka Studio Art Tour for six years, and like Mullaney and Stombaugh, has always made art part of her life. She graduated from the fine arts program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Her dad was an architect and art was always important to her family.

She didn’t start focusing on her art full-time until 2006, when she was able to quit her day job. Her work is now displayed in galleries around the United States.

Lake Minnetonka Studio Tour
May 2, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
May 3, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.