By Paula McCambridge
Art is thriving in Paso Robles, evidenced by the fact that the population of a small town congregated in the Downtown City Park Saturday for PASO ARTSFEST.
Some 8,000 visitors are estimated to have filled the park for a day of nearly every kind of art imaginable, along with entertainment and food. The popular event, organized by Studios on the Park, just keeps growing.
“The planning committee is ecstatic with how the event turned out,” said Shonna Howenstine, marketing director for PASO ARTSFEST. “We’re still waiting for the art sales numbers to come back, that’s our main fundraising mechanism, but everything couldn’t have come off better. The buzz beforehand meant all of our promotional efforts and past years’ successes were working in our favor; our Hearst Castle Art Tour sold out with very little promotion; getting Quang Ho as our featured speaker and judge was an amazing opportunity that brought in a really high level of artists for both our Fine Art Show & Sale and our Wet Painting Charity Auction at the Main event; Quang’s workshops sold out in days and people flew in from all over the country to take them; we added hands-on activities for adults in the Playspace area at the Main Event, and it stayed busy all day.
“The event attracts art lovers of all ages, and one of the most popular of the spaces is that of the Kids Art Smart Zone. This year, the zone was packed before we even opened and stayed full beyond closing time,” Howenstine said. “The music and performances were high quality; Todo Mundo was a big hit. The Sand Guys allowed kids to step up and learn side by side with sand sculpting masters, so they were packed fully of happy kids all day.”
That said, adults attending had their fun, too. In addition to fine and performing arts, there was the art of wine to enjoy, always a favorite in Paso Robles.
“We basically offered the best wine-by-the-glass bar on the planet for four hours – Justin Isosceles by the glass alongside L’Aventure and Windward is not something that ever happens, anywhere,” Howenstine said. “Basically every penny of wine sales goes back to the festival because about 10 of our fantastic local wineries donate in support of the arts. There were happy people relaxing in our lounge all day and we had to restock wine glasses more often than last year, which is a great problem to have! One local restaurant on the park reported that they had their best lunch shift of the entire year during our event, which is a side effect we foster every year by keeping our food offerings in the park limited.”
The park transforms for ARTSFEST through streamers hanging from the tall oaks to the famed stilt walkers who both dazzle and delight guests.
“The décor came together really well this year and added great atmosphere, especially in the lounge; this year’s stilt walker characters were edgier, adding an element of surprise; our volunteer force was enthusiastic and happy to be back; even set-up and cleanup went quicker since our logistics director has worked on Olympic games and for World Cup Soccer, that’s one of the reasons this event has always come off so well,” Howenstine said.
With a successful 2014 complete, the ARTSFEST team is already looking forward to 2015.
“The entire committee of 13 is constantly evaluating what works and what can be improved on festival day,” Howenstine said. “In fact, we have our wrap-up meeting on Monday, and most of us will come with ideas for what to add, keep or change for next year. We will take a break for a month or two, then we’ll start planning for next year. It’s exhilarating to see all of our efforts pay off – the arts are getting support, kids are getting to do art through Studios on the Park’s Kids Art Smart program (PASO ARTSFEST proceeds help with that) and weekly art classes; locals and visitors are learning about art and meeting artists and taking art classes, some for the first time in their lives. Mixing art into our community has created a fantastic synergy that adds to the energy of downtown and the attractiveness of Paso Robles as a tourism destination. Plus it makes it a really fun place to live and work.
For more information on PASO ARTSFEST, go to www.studiosonthepark.org.