Margaret River Region Open Studios has confirmed this September’s 10th anniversary festival will see the event come back bigger than ever, and with two art ambassadors appointed for the first time. Last year’s ninth festival was a massive boom, with 50 per cent growth in visitors. While it might be hard to top those numbers, festival organisers were giving it a crack, with the two-week September showing to see 166 artists sign up for the arty extravaganza, about the same number of participants as last year. About a third of this year’s sign-ups were first-time exhibitors, adding some freshness to the festival offering, which included 48 new studios to visit. However, the move to name two ambassadors to the Open Studios was expected to broaden the festival’s intrastate and interstate reach. Eastern States artist Michael Zavros, from Queensland, and respected Perth practitioner Andrew Thornton-Hick would add their profiles to the mix. Zavros is a famed painter and sculptor, with work held in most major national galleries, and his 25-year retrospective recently opened at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art. Thornton-Hick was recognised as a working practitioner with a strong background in championing art and design. While noted as a previous “avid supporter” of the festival, this year Thornton-Hick would actively document and promote the work of fellow artists and provide a conduit to WA’s architecture and design industries. Both artists would make the trek for Open Studios and appear at key events, as well as touring the other artists’ studios during the 16-day event and speak at the fundraising dinner at Aravina Estate. The 10th anniversary was also a chance to thank the festival’s army of dedicated volunteers who had built Open Studios into one of WA’s best-attended art tours, deputy chair Jacqui Happ said. “For an event of this kind, managed by a volunteer committee, 10 years is a milestone achievement,” she said. “There has been substantial growth in the quality of artworks as it is a unique opportunity to reach a broad audience. “And these are of course not all necessarily artists who have recently taken up art, but rather artists who have chosen to call the Margaret River region home in recent years.” The region continued to inspire artists from Augusta to Busselton working in a wide array of mixed media, Mrs Happ said. Painter and graphic novelist Rachel Coad told the Times she was among the artists who’d taken part since the festival first started. “It has grown into a significant event,” she said. “If people are willing to get out and find you, then they are genuinely enthusiastic and interested. It’s such a pleasure chatting to people.” As well as her newest work New York City Glow on sale, Coad would have works in progress as well as her personal collection of WA art on show. Open Studios also boasted a new website for this year which helped visitors plan their own itinerary. Visit www.mrropenstudios.com.au for more.