Day in the Life
California Arts Day touches off weeks of arts activities in Salinas.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
California Arts Day, which falls on the first Friday of October, has been celebrated for about a decade, but not many people – or even artists – are aware of it.
It was created by the California Arts Council, which itself was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975 with the proclamation “The Legislature perceives that life in California is enriched by art” and “The source of art is in the natural flow of the human mind.” But it wasn’t until the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that Arts Day was formally adopted by the state of California in order to connect people, especially then, to each other and their communities.
Today the state can certainly use an arts boost. California, per its budget crisis, channels fewer dollars to its state arts council than any other state, despite having more arts programs than any other. It’s funded primarily by the sale of custom license plates created by famed pop art painter Wayne Thiebaud, whom the Monterey Museum of Art has in its contemporary collection. (Paulette Lynch, executive director of The Arts Council for Monterey County, which receives funding from the California Arts Council to disseminate throughout the county, uses the license plate as an email signature.)
October is also the National Endowment for the Art’s National Arts and Humanities Month, which claims the “nation’s largest collective annual celebration of the arts,” so there is plenty of creative momentum going into October. Last year Santa Cruz held its Open Studios Art Tour during the month, Coulterville put on its Cowboy Poetry Festival, Mountain View screened its second annual Silicon Valley African Film Festival, Santa Monica brought in Trombone Shorty and cast members from GLEE, and L.A., Santa Barbara and San Francisco went all out with many events.
In Monterey County, Salinas is the only city marking the occasion. Three years ago Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue proclaimed the first Friday in October Salinas Arts Day. And in Salinas, when it comes to arts events, that usually points to Trish Sullivan, driver of the longstanding Oldtown Salinas First Friday Artwalk, which is the first event that she’s folding into the Arts Day happening.
“We’ll have more stuff going on for First Friday, more performances,” she says. “[But] I called the [California Arts Council] and they said [they’re] actually focusing more on National Arts and Humanities Month.”
So the synergy will spread out in Salinas over four weeks. Two big incarnations of that synergy will be the open studios tours of Salinas and Salinas Valley’s Artoberfest.
Artoberfest, like the 23-year-old Monterey County version (and the Santa Cruz multiple weekend studio tours that it’s modeled after), will provide maps to artists’ studios to see their work in the environment in which it’s created. This weekend will cover Salinas, and includes a lot of studio locations around Oldtown, including those of ceramics artist Elise Chezem, painter Marek Lipowski, custom car hound Cole Foster and Squid Row cartoonist Bridgett Spicer. (Sullivan also suggests people take another look at the “hat” sculpture at Sherwood Hall’s lawn, created by the famous large-scale sculptor Claes Oldenburg, who also created the giant bow and arrow in San Francisco.) The second one takes place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13-14, is heavy on destinations in King City and is still being developed.
Just as the Monterey County Artist Studios Tour puts up a compilation art show at the Pacific Grove Art Center with art by each of the participating artists, Sullivan’s 4Word Art Gallery will do the same for the Salinas and Salinas Valley artists, with a roster of 30 pieces that’s growing by the day.
The Steinbeck Center will also host a performance of First Friday Cabaret by the Salinas Performing Arts, with wine and appetizers, and exhibits of Banned and Recovered books and Belle Yang, available for free this Friday, Oct. 5. Sunday, Oct. 14, rock-n-roll photographer Tom O’Neal comes to talk and show pictures of ’60s rock and folk icons and the U.S. Air Force Band plays.
The Salinas art events will culminate at the Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival, created by the Monterey County Young Professionals, the Oldtown Salinas Association and the Rotary Club of Salinas, on Oct. 20.
This weekend’s California Arts Day, meanwhile, will not be formally constructed – the California Art Council website doesn’t offer more than suggestions to cities and arts organizations about how to celebrate it.
“Consider brainstorming how best to attract the most attention given time and money resources,” it reads. “Involve your whole community.”
So although the statewide and nationwide arts ideas originate elsewhere, the creative execution is purely local. That’s a good thing. In fact, a confluence of participants coming together and making local connections around art is an art form itself.
CALIFORNIA ARTS DAY runs 5-8pm Friday, 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6-7 and 13-14, in various locations throughout Salinas and Salinas Valley. Free to attend. 594-1799, www.artoberfestsalinas.org