West End Celebration flaunts Sand City’s unique art culture.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Like the huge dunes which loom at this industrial neighborhood’s northern border, the West End arts revolution continues to change with every passing year. For the fourth consecutive year, the artists, galleries and businesses of this Sand City arts enclave will throw a street party/open studio tour to show off how much their remarkable community arts phenomenon has grown.
Last year, the West End Celebration attracted 3,500 attendees. This Saturday, organizers expect “a lot more” to flood the wide, sandy streets and visit the 20 open studios and the 10 businesses which will host outside artists while enjoying a host of live music, roving performers and great food.
“It’s created its own buzz,” says longtime local artist Johnny Apodaca. “And it’s a very pure thing. It’s not just about selling artwork—it’s about seeing it and appreciating it.”
Famed metal sculptor Greg Hawthorne agrees.
“We’re not a tourist town,” Hawthorne says. “We’re more the place where artwork is fabricated. In Carmel, you notice a lot of galleries, but you don’t see many artists working. We want to show off the working aspects of artists.”
Hawthorne and Apodaca have been instrumental in the West End’s development and are credited as the celebration’s organizers. Their vision of creating a working community of artists has been embraced and encouraged by city officials in the Planning and Building Department, who created a live-work zone for tenants of the West End’s empty warehouses.
“You can work at all hours,” Hawthorne says. “If you were in some suburban neighborhood, I don’t think your neighbors would be real excited about you working late at night or having other loud artists over.”
“Plus, there’s the financial advantage,” says Apodaca. “Especially for younger artists who need a space where they can live and work and there is only one rent.”
Apodaca and Hawthorne are both quick to point out that the West End arts community is devoted to helping out the next generation of Sand City artists, which include Hawthorne’s sons Taylor and Damien and Kristin Gustavson, a young painter and well-respected raku artist.
Interestingly enough, Taylor Hawthorne will miss this year’s celebration because he is currently back east apprenticing under Albert Paley, the man widely considered to be the best forged steel artist in the world. Paley, who owns a home in Carmel, found the artistic development of the West End so intriguing that he recently bought a building in Sand City.
“[The arrival of artists like Paley] is the best thing in the whole world for this community,” says Hawthorne. “The arts are something you want to keep moving in a positive direction. I don’t need a bunch of Sunday painters to fill up the space. I want people who do it for a living—pros.”
But filling up the space with outside pros is also a concern to local artists. After all, the West End of Sand City is only so big, and prices are already starting to rise.
“The prices are starting to shoot up there. The artists that are here are staying. It’s challenging,” Apodaca says. “There’s still more room and there are more artists coming everyday. Things are definitely a little tighter than they once were.”
Longtime Sand City artists like Norman Foster, Jay Cook, Stephanie Esta and Eleen Auvil have watched their neighborhood transformed from economic blight into artistic hotbed by the arrival of Apodaca and Hawthorne in 2001 and the artists that followed them like Fred Slautterback, Carol Chappman, Susan Collins, Mary Erner and Todd Kruper.
“This is the fantasy community I’ve always wanted in my mind’s eye,” Apodaca says. “Galleries are secondary. It’s more of an artists’ studio area.”
A fact which makes businesses like PK Fine Artifacts unique. Attracted by the energy and the attractive lease prices, Patricia Kramer moved into an artists’ enclave in March, 2004.
“I’d been watching Sand City for a few years and since I had an existing clientele, I didn’t need to be in a high traffic location,” Kramer says. “But now because of all the buzz about Sand City, I’m seeing more and more local walk-through traffic.”
Kramer was able to open both a gallery to showcase local artists and a large showroom for her remarkable cultural artifacts and furniture. This year she’s decided to feature two painters and have a live band out front—something she says she’d never be able to get away with anywhere else on the Peninsula.
“That’s what makes the West End so special,” says Apodaca. “We wanted to make a place, a power point for showing art. And we wanted to create something so that the artists can celebrate as well as the locals.”