SOUTH NEWFANE -- This year, people on the 22nd Rock River Tour of artists' studios will see the destruction inflicted by Tropical Storm Irene.

"I think it creates a better understanding of what people have overcome and are still overcoming," said publicist Lynn Barrett. "Something really good has come out of it. Certainly people are still struggling, but there has been a lot of community building that has come out of it."

Art has come out of it, even from the storm's detritus -- and the community of artists in Rock River Valley has rebounded strongly.

The Rock River Tour will show their work Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Works from all 17 of the exhibiting artisits will be on display at the 19th-century Old Schoolhouse in South Newfane. Visiting the schoolhouse gives visitors a chance to see all of the artists' works and to plan their own self-guided tour.

The tour allows people not only to buy works directly from the artists and see where they work, but to talk with them as well -- and even to work in their workshops -- a hands-on friendliness Barrett feels is a big part of the tour's draw.

"That's a very big appeal. Where else really do you have a chance to do that?" Barrett said. "Some of the artists will be doing demonstrations. Some of them actually get people working, having them participate in some artwork. That's a very special opportunity, and people are amazed."

The Rock River Valley was one of the places most affected when Tropical Storm Irene hit on Aug.


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28, 2011. The storm damaged and swept away houses and also destroyed roads, isolating many sections of the community. Though things have gotten better, some people in the region are still recovering.

One of the 17 exhibiting artists on the Rock River Tour -- its founder, Chris Triebert -- found inspiration in the chaos following the storm, which damaged her property. Triebert began collecting various items, such as rocks from the river, wire mesh and sand that had washed up on her property, and arranging them in a variety of ways. Over the course of time, she took hundreds of photographs of her creations. Forty of those photographs -- no bigger than 3 feet by 3 feet -- she mounted on wooden frames and placed on a wall in her studio.

"[I took] an amazing array of stuff that I separated out, cleaned them up and photographed them on pure white backgrounds so they become pieces of sculpture," Triebert said. "Each one is mounted on a wooden panel, and the panels all can be fit together in a variety of ways, which to me is part of the concept of this work -- that things are rearrangeable, endlessly rearrangable -- because that's what I perceived after the event of the flood ... that everything was in a different place than what it once was."

Triebert has even put the photographs in small scale on magnetic sheets, so that people who visit the studio can move the magnets on a sheet of metal that hangs there -- and make the images into any configuration they want to see.

If you go ...

What: Rock River artists'
studios tour

Pete Novick, Japanese cabinetry

Rich Gillis, metalwork

Eileen Darrow, carved and incised ceramics

Laurie Richardson, ceramic mosaics

Dan DeWalt and Rob Cramn, woodworking and furniture

Roger Sandes, Georgie and Caryn King, paintings

Mary Welsh, collages

Matt Tell, wood-fired pots

Kim Hartman Colligan, prints

Rob Cartelli, porcelaine

Deirdre Sherer, fiber art

Chris Treibert, photography

Leonard Ragouzeos, ink on paper

Richard Foye, raku pottery and Persian glazes

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20

Where: Headquarters at 19th-century Old Schoolhouse, Newfane

Admission: Free

A barbecue will also be held during the event at the Williamsville Hall beginning at 6 p.m. as a fundraiser for the hall. The cost is $12 for adults and $8 for children under the age of 10. The menu includes pulled pork and a BBQ chicken plate with coleslaw, baked beans and corn bread.

Information: rockriverartists.com.