By: David Yoshitomi
It was like a hot afternoon in Havana as I left the safety of my compound here at Bell Arts Factory to experience what would be my first ArtWalk Ventura. Occasional thunderstorms had been rolling through, but it looked like I finally had window to make the 2+ mile loop from the Westside through downtown Ventura.
Prior to this I had spent some time checking out all the good things going on at Bell Arts. The Plein Air Artists were in the community room and all the artist studios were open and buzzing with visitors - new and old faces, all friendly, and all ready to check out the local arts scene. The lobby was filled with the sounds of Jon Gindick and his harmonica slash guitar combination, giving a perfect bluesy energy to match the vibe of the day. Before I left, I went by the Tool Room Gallery to see Pedro Pulido's Cubanos exhibit and check out the Dalis, Picasos and Chagalls on the walls of Vita Art Center... cause that's how they roll.
I ventured outside to visit the PODS galleries set up on Harrison. Dina Pielaet, the official ArtWalk Photographer had a full A/V lounge experience in her POD, exhibiting high quality prints of the ArtWalk posters we've seen around town, as well as an exclusive peak at an interview reel showcasing dozens of local Ventura artists. Local watercolorst Julie Merrill laid claim to the second POD, exhibiting the talent of the Ventura Watercolor Artists- a simple, yet balancing juxtaposition to Dina's more dynamic space.
July 19th, 2015 Day 2
When I woke up, the first thing I did was check the forecast. It had rained earlier but we were in luck- 78 degrees and partly cloudy skies from noon until the evening- perfect weather for an art walk. I started off again on the Westside, opting to revisit Stoneworks Studios to get a feel for the festivities without the rain. The vibes were right today, with the artists having even more energy than the day before. I even got a chance to see Michele Chapin, who had switched hats from "Artist of Distinction" to "Gallery Owner", making sure everything ran smoothly at her studio space.
After checking out a few of the wares, I pour a cup of their free sweet tea and took it all in, grabbing a seat in front of the Green Art People stage. Wasn't long before I had to head on out- I had a "cocktail party" to attend.
Taking place at Working Artists Ventura, the Cocktail Party of the Damned is the first chapter of the larger play "Drought: What Are You Thirsty For?" directed by Tracy Hudak. The half hour performance was one of my hightlights of ArtWalk this year, and not just because the room was air conditioned. It was well written, the acting was flawless, and timely in relation to current issues we face as a society. I can't wait for chapter two.
It would not have been ArtWalk 2015 without a visit to the Havana To Ventura mural site. I was fortunate to find mural collaborator MB Hanrahan at the site alone when I stopped by, giving me a chance to get her unique perspective on the timeliness of the project and how everything came together with Pedro Pulido to create the finished product. I left the mural inspired by her creativity and dedication.
I made the trek down Main Street taking everything in. The Project Understanding Bowl Hop table was crowded with potential customers, browsing the ceramic selection from the Ventura County Potters' Guild. Mission Park was filled with energy, naturally being a center for ArtWalkers to regroup before heading up the Avenue or vice versa.
Oak and Main Street is where I really got a feel for the POD experience ArtWalk Ventura is known for. PODS at this location featured artwork by Hilda Kilpatrick, David Schmitt, Eco Shumaker, students from Vita Art Center's summer program and a special photo manipulation exhibit curated by Tony Galindo.
If you were coming to ArtWalk off the 101 freeway, you had to notice the California and Main Street closure, marked by the City of Ventura's POD Gallery taken over by Ben Blanchard. "Smile We're in Ventura" - damn straight! The Community Memorial Hospital' POD featuring Lisa McFarlane's black and white photography was right next door in stark contrast to Ben's conceptual art display- a true testament to the versatility of the Ventura art community.
I popped my head in to Fox Fine Jewelry for a blast of AC and to see the work of Susan Cook and Karin Geiger, both of whom were walking the store, taking time to talk to ArtWalkers about their exhibit. Then it was down to Ema's Herbs and the last POD of my day featuring art from Vanessa Wallace-Gonzales and Isabella Morones, two local Ventura artists who studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
I had to turn around and head back, making sure I caught Lorenzo DeStefano's Cubanos: Island Portraits exhibit at the Ventura County Museum. On the museum patio I also had the chance to check out art from Ventura's sister city on the Baja Peninsula, Loreto. I was able to meet some representatives from the city, as well as talk to Father Tom from the Mission and discuss all the exciting aspects of this partnership.
All of the venue and PODS exhibits were something to be experienced- words and photos do no justice. It has to be said that while there was much deserved focus on the Havana To Ventura projects this year, our hometown artists really made ArtWalk Ventura shine. We are so lucky to be surrounded by this much talent and creativity.
I feel like I barely scratched the surface, especially with this being my first time at ArtWalk Ventura. I also didn't get a chance to make all the exhibits, venues and events- ArtCity, Green Art People, and the Ventura College performances are just to name a few. But that is why there is next year-- hopefully without the rain!
What I was able to experience and participate in this year is testament to how fortunate we are to have such a thriving arts community, going beyond just ArtWalk weekend. Day in and day out, our artists, photographers, sculptors, potters, actors, singers, and dancers are hard at work making our world a more beautiful place to live in.
And that makes me really look forward to next year...
The author David Yoshitomi is a contributor to the ArtWalk Ventura blog and is also on staff member at Bell Arts Factory.