Carriage Factory Art Gallery is giving the public a chance to see where paintings and sculptures are created before the finished product is put on display.

Mary Lee McDonald, assistant director of Carriage Factory Art Gallery, said she often hears visitors talk about the number and caliber of artists living in the Newton and Harvey County areas. That led her to invite several local artists to open their studios to the public.

"They have been so gracious to work with in opening up their studios," McDonald said. "This is a great

way for the gallery and the artists and the public to really make a connection."

The five artists — Phil Epp, Conrad Snider, Bob Regier, J.P. "George" Krievins and Andy Brown — will be welcoming visitors to their studios during a special tour sponsored by the gallery on June 23.

"When we have an opening, there is such a huge influx of people that you don't get a lot of one-on-one time," McDonald said. "We're hoping with this tour that it's casual, it's comfortable, it's intimate."

The studios range from Krievins and Brown's art deco building in downtown Newton to Epp's ranch located a few miles east of town.

With "Lunch for the Body, Food for the Soul" as the theme for the day, the gallery will host a picnic lunch of brats, coleslaw, baked beans and watermelon from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in adjoining Krehbiel Park. Participants can then pick up their maps, tickets and tour routes and head out on the tour. The studio tour will be open from 12:30 to 5 p.m.

"We wanted a special event to celebrate the gallery's 35th anniversary," said Carriage Factory Art Gallery Director Cindy Snider. "Mary came up with the artist studio tour idea. It's a fantastic way to celebrate and further create connections between our local artists and the public."

Reservations for the artist studio tour are $30 per person and must be made by June 16. Participants may want to car pool since transportation will not be provided.

Carriage Factory Art Gallery was formed in 1983 by a group of local citizens and its umbrella organization, Newton Fine Arts Association, was established 50 years ago.

The nonprofit gallery, housed in a former carriage factory, is a resource for the community in promoting the benefits of art and art education, Snider said. Support for the organization comes primarily through donations, memberships, art sales, fundraisers, classes and facility rental.

In addition to featured exhibits that highlight the work of local and regional artists, Carriage Factory Art Gallery includes a consignment gallery for artists, a gift shop and collections of paintings by Albert H. Krehbiel and Vernon Rickman.

Gallery hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. More information is available at www.carriagefactoryartgallery.com.