One of the things Gary Wolfe likes about the get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour is that it allows people to see the personality behind a work of art, as well as the environment it’s created in.

The local artist, who will open his Design Lab studio at 405 Sixth St. for the April 6 GBTA tour, said such experiences are important in making art accessible and easier to understand.

Wolfe is looking forward to having people come through his creative space, which this year will feature his paintings as well as contemporary art furniture. And those who talk to him might discover that what they see there is only part of what he does.

A Virginia native who has also lived in Denver and Milwaukee, Wolfe came to Racine about 12 years ago to do interior design work in Downtown restaurants and shops. With a degree in sculpture and painting — and training in everything from stone carving to silk screening — he said he enjoys the opportunity to explore various mediums and work with a range of materials.

Such range is evident in Wolfe’s recent series of furniture pieces that express the nature of sin — a few of which are still in the studio. Tour-goers will also get to see some of his older paintings and sculptures not shown in Racine before. And those who look closely might detect the artist’s sense of humor, which he says is a big part of who he is.

“I like the idea of something going on in my pieces that isn’t quite so serious,” he said.

Wolfe’s studio is one of 22 locations throughout Racine and Kenosha to be featured on next weekend’s GBTA tour, which is organized by Art Matters, a collection of area artists. In its third year, the self-guided tour gives the public a chance to meet the people and creative processes behind the visual and performing arts.

This year’s event will feature more than 75 artists and include new locations such as television and recording studios, a community theater and area museums, in addition to a range of visual arts studios.

At the Racine Theatre Guild, for example, backstage tours will be given from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and visitors can witness a technical rehearsal of “The Three Musketeers” from 2 to 5 p.m. And, at Kenosha Community Media, they can watch RG Productions audition performers for its next season of old-time radio shows from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Kenosha Public Museum will also offer behind-the-scenes tours, and at Racine’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts visitors can get a feel for techniques taught there, including jewelry enameling and watercolor painting.

Visual artists will show everything from painting and photography to glass blowing, book binding and tattooing in their studios. And people of all ages are invited to experience as much of it as they choose.

By offering free admission to kids this year, organizers hope to encourage adults to bring children on the tour.

“We really want to get kids into these studios,” said Maureen Fritchen event chairwoman. “This is something they should be involved in.”

Tour-goers are also invited to attend the GBTA Preview Party, which will take place Friday night, April 5, in the 5,000-square-foot space at 427 Main St. (formerly West Marine). The free, evening party will feature live performances, previews of artwork and a chance to “get dirty,” with hands-on activities such as working a pottery wheel or making a print, according to Fritchen. See below for more party details.

Last year’s preview, held at Kenosha’s Rhode Center for the Arts, drew 450 people, Fritchen said, adding that Art Matters is “thrilled” to have the Main Street space for the party, which has grown each year.

Saturday’s GBTA studio tour has also expanded from its previous 17 locations to this year’s 22, Fritchen said.

“We hope it continues to grow and grow,” she said.

Preview Party entertainment

Nick Ramsey will MC the Preview Party, with performers scheduled as follows:

• 6-6:10 p.m. — Manar Mohammad (poetry)

• 6:10-6:30 p.m. — Christian Dreyer (music)

• 6:40-7 p.m. — University of Wisconsin-Parkside (theatre)

• 7-7:10 p.m. — Nick Demske (poetry)

• 7:10-7:30 p.m. — Naomi Marie (music)

• 7:40-8 p.m. — Puppet Underground (puppetry)

• 8:10-8:40 p.m. — Raffle Drawing (must be present to win)

• 8:40-9:10 p.m. — Jennifer Fisher (music)

• 9:20-10 — Big Leaf Linden (music)

The free GBTA Preview Party will also feature food catered by the Wild Root Market and a cash bar, staffed by Envi and Ivanhoe bartenders. Artists participating in Saturday’s GBTA tour will preview their work and some will give demonstrations. Drawings for free art classes, performance tickets and hand-screened T-shirts will also be held.

If You Go

WHAT: get bEHIND the aRTS 2013

WHEN: Preview party from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 5; Studio Tour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 6.

WHERE: Preview Party at 427 Main St. Tour of 22 studios throughout Racine and Kenosha.

COST: Preview Party is free. Admission to the Studio Tour is a suggested donation of $5 (kids admitted free).

INFO: Studio tour guide/map and other details available at GBTA will be featured on WMLW television’s “Racine & Me” show at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, March 30.

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