By Hayley Thomas
It's been nearly a year since Neal Breton first introduced North County to a new breed of emerging, cutting-edge local artists to Paso Robles through his Young Savages group show. This year, the show - simply dubbed "Savages" - promises to bring more than 30 up-and-coming artists of the same innovative ilk to Studios on the Park March 1 through 30.
Breton, who has since found a home at the downtown artist's nonprofit, is optimistic about round two.
"The idea was to bring artists south of Paso Robles into the fold' to see what kind of impact we could make," said Breton. "It happened organically - there was a swell of interest from the media and the public. We were caught up in the excitement."
Excitement, indeed. Last year's attendance was robust for a first-time show featuring many artists unknown in Northern SLO County. More importantly, Breton said artwork was sold and valuable connections were made among the show contributors.
"These artists got noticed by other patrons and venues, so it was a great success beyond the show itself," said Breton. "If people didn't know about Lena Rushing before that show, they sure know about her now."
Rushing, known for her ethereal, moody paintings and mixed-media works, will again show during the 2014 event. The colorful list of artists - ranging in their teens, 20s and 30s - will supply a mixed bag of paintings, installation pieces, film and mural work. Mediums run the gamut from charcoal and ink to vibrant spray paint.
"Everyone who I brought to the show this year has a unique quality to their art," said Breton. "There's definitely flair of contemporary technique, and it's a very wide swath."
Breton - alongside San Luis Obispo artist Jeff Claassen - joined forces with Studio son the Park last summer, creating Fiasco Gallery inside the artist's alcove. Breton and Claassen spend days chatting up tourists and working on various pieces while the public looks on. Within the bold space, both artists showcase their own graphic, contemporary artwork, prints and schwag alongside a rotating wheel of artistic friends.
"After the first Savages show, we noticed the possibility of success up here n Paso Robles, so that's why we created our own luck," said Breton. "[Savages] was like a litmus test for a lot of different artists, to see if they could produce a piece of work that is gallery-ready."
Breton said he's also learned a few things: Namely, being a curator isn't all wine and roses. He's had to learn to "herd the weasels" and make tough decisions to maintain the quality and integrity of his vision.
"Ultimately, it's about bringing in more artists, more talent and showing more people," said Breton of his long-term goal.
The public is invited to attend the opening reception, which will kick off March 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will feature craft beer and music by DJ Malik. Artists will be on-hand for a meet-and-greet.
Breton, known locally as a gruff but loveable character is optimistic in a way that surprises even himself.
"I have the utmost hope that this upcoming show ill be the best show I have had anything to do with," said Breton. "I believe in these artists so much that I couldn't see it going any other way. This show will be nothing less than an absolute spectacle."
For more information, visit www.studiosonthepakr.org or call 238-9800.