Attention art lovers: The annual East Bay Open Studios will be held the first two weekends in June.

This year over 400 artists representing 13 cities across the East Bay -- Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Kensington, Lafayette, Oakland, Piedmont, Pinole, Richmond and San Leandro -- are taking part in the event June 7-8 and June 14-15, creating a great opportunity to meet artists, discover new neighborhoods and purchase affordable art.

East Bay Open Studios is presented by Pro Arts, an Oakland-based regional organization, now in its 40th year, formed to encourage and inspire creativity in the arts community. Pro Arts has evolved as a vital artistic hub for Oakland and the Bay Area by engaging public audiences, artists and youth in its visual arts programming, arts education and artist services.

"You can visit large industrial studio complexes and live-work spaces that are bursting with activity," says Pro Arts Executive Director Margo Dunlap, "or you can find studio gems in people's homes, such as a darkroom under a staircase, a print room in a garage, or a living room dedicated to drafting.

"The amazing thing about this event is every Open Studios adventure will be different."

I look forward to Open Studios weekends every year; for me it kicks off the summer season. I like to go to the Pro Arts Gallery, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, in the modern wing of the Lionel Wilson Building, across from the historic Rotunda Building, where I can see artwork by all participating artists. This time the samples are arranged by neighborhood, making it easier to plan out my visits. Picking up the free Directory of East Bay Arts, with the maps, listings and artist index is an essential step.

"This year we are launching a new VIP Pass," says Amy Spencer, program coordinator. This is a membership premium. For $100 per individual or $150 per family art lovers can show their support for Pro Arts and receive discounts in the gallery, local dining perks, and museum admission at select partner institutions such as the Oakland Museum of California and the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. They are available for purchase at the gallery or on line.

"This is a way that our non-artist supporters can help sustain Pro Arts going forward," Spencer said.

The VIP Pass is good for the year and 10 percent off art sales at select artists' studios during Open Studios Weekends.

For more information, images and artist stories contact Spencer at amy@proartsgallery.org, or call 510 763-4361. The website for Pro Arts is www.proartsgallery.org.

Helen B. Tryon

A long time lover of California and Oakland history has passed away at the age of 93. Helen B. Tryon died on April 16. She was a volunteer for the Oakland Museum of California for over three decades, and a "sparkplug" according to her obituary. Tryon was honored for her long time chairmanship of the History Guild Travel Program, making all the travel arrangements and leading the trips, initially with her husband Warren Tryon and after he died, by herself. She participated for several years with the Oakland Tours Program, and was honored by the city of Oakland for her volunteer service.

Tryon will be missed by her many friends in the Alameda County Historical Society, and other local history organizations. Donations in her memory may be sent to the Oakland Museum of California History Department (510 526-6465) or the Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University Ave., in Berkeley.