By Erin C. Messer
Wine and art have always had a strong affinity for one another, so it stands to reason that our local wine country would host a festival designed for creative types. Paso ARTSFEST (all upper case) is the yearly jubilee brought to you by North County arts powerhouse Studios on the Park, taking place over Memorial Day weekend, May 23 through 26.
ARTSFEST opens on an appropriately grand note with the Hearst Castle Art Tour, showcasing William Randolph Hearst’s mania for collecting. Don’t expect to see anything modern—as prior visitors to the castle will recall, Mr. Hearst’s tastes trended toward the antique. The tour takes place May 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the $75 ticket price includes an exclusive tour of the castle and grounds as well as lunch on the terraces of La Casa del Mar, the largest of the hilltop’s guesthouses.
If you can’t make lunch, the State of the Art Dinner, Keynote, and Afterparty will take place at ARTSFEST’s home base, in the Park Ballroom and at Studios on the Park, on May 23 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The speaker will be Quang Ho, an internationally recognized painter and teacher whose workshop on May 26 has already sold out.
The heart and soul—or, I should say, paint and canvas—of ARTSFEST is the main event, on May 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Paso Robles’ downtown City Park. This includes the Outdoor Fine Art Show and Sale and the Wet Painting Sale and Auction, as well as a number of art activities for all ages, food, and entertainment. The Monroe, Cuesta Ridge, and Todo Mundo will perform on the Pine Street Stage, and there will also be a Youth Stage with live music to be announced. Ditto the dance performances, which will take place every half hour.
Are your walls at home looking a little barren? More than 60 artists are slated to take part in the Outdoor Fine Art Show and Sale. You’re especially in luck if you dig landscapes—the Central Coast being approximately 98.5 percent landscape at last count—but alongside ARTSFEST veterans, voracious viewers will be treated to several new participants this year, including glass artist Claudia Ariss (fresh off a strong solo show at Big Sky Café in SLO), jewelry designer Ina Hohensee, photographer Andrew Butler, basketweaver and gourd artist Toni Best, abstract painter Mikel Naccarato, and photographer Hugo Martinez.
Martinez, a Santa Barbara-based photographer whose work was recently featured in National Geographic, will show his exquisitely composed food photographs. Simple and direct, they gain their raw power—literally—from the unflinching presentation of food products similar to the still life paintings of the Dutch masters, rendered even more strikingly accurate through the photographic lens.
Bad-boy art stars Jeff Claassen and Neal Breton’s Fiasco Gallery will be on hand with work from a group of Savages alumni that includes signmaker Ty Hjortland, artist and designer Alani Chavez (who stole our hearts at Savages with her Dueling Whiskers: Beardyman Series No. 1), Lisa Bukoswki, the beloved Lena Rushing, and Sendak-on-canvas Bret Brown. The freshness and levity of these young bloods perfectly suits the festival atmosphere; don’t miss them.
If you’re still not convinced, think of it this way: Where else can you keep your kids busy with something educational and creative (art is important!) while also drinking totally justifiable glasses of wine (Paso is the new Napa!)? That’s what I thought. See you at ARTSFEST!
When Arts Editor Erin C. Messer isn’t out taking the plein air, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.