BENNINGTON COUNTY -- Late May can be one of the most rewarding times of the year to explore Vermont and the Spring Open Studio Tour. Memorial Day Weekend offers a great way for locals and visitors alike to do so. Bright yellow signs are placed along Vermont's roads to mark the way to studios of craftspeople and fine artists during the self-guided tour on May 24 and 25 at a time when the landscape is fresh and inviting and without the crowds of summer and fall.

Open Studio Weekend is a statewide celebration of the visual arts and creative process, offering a unique opportunity for visitors to meet a wide variety of artists and craftspeople in their studios, some of which are only open to the public during this event. Those who experience Open Studio gain an appreciation for the creative process and the role that artists and craftspeople play in the vitality of Vermont's communities.

Every year the self-guided tour features a number of new artists, giving long-time Open Studio visitors some fresh destinations to explore. In studios of long-time participants, repeat visitors can expect to find new art works and old friends. The studio tour brings visitors to historic Vermont villages and along back roads with spectacular vistas. For travelers looking for a broad range of activities, Vermont-byways.us has posted interactive maps in each of the regions showing Open Studios in those areas.

Travelers through Central Vermont will find studios throughout the region along the beautiful Mettowee River Valley along Route 30, near historic Manchester and Dorset, and into the Green Mountains the Route 9 corridor between Bennington and Brattleboro.

Martha Fitch, the director of the Vermont Crafts Council that organizes the event, says the allure of the Open Studio tour is that "it takes you through the real Vermont, with the yellow Open Studio signs and the Open Studio map easily guiding visitors to the studios." The tour features the work of glassblowers, jewelers, printmakers, potters, furniture makers, weavers, ironworkers, painters, sculptors, quilt makers and wood carvers.

The Crafts Council is honoring two artists who have participated in the Spring Open Studio tour for 20 years: Dianne Shullenberger in Jericho, who creates detailed fiber "paintings" from tiny bits of textiles and thread, and potter Matthew Tell of Marlboro.

The free Open Studio guide contains maps and directions to studios and studio addresses that can be entered into GPS systems. The maps, along with the yellow signs placed along the roads, ensure that visitors will easily find the studios. The Open Studio guide is available throughout the state at Vermont Welcome Centers, galleries and studios, on the website http://www.vermontcrafts.com, or by calling 802-223-3380.

The Vermont Crafts Council is a non-profit organization serving the Vermont visual arts community. Open Studio Weekend is supported by the galleries of Vermont State Craft Centers, the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

For a map of Bennington county participants, visit http://vermontcrafts.com/OSW/bennington.html .