By Julie Matthews
Paso Robles residents have long been proud of their world-acclaimed wine industry and highly praised restaurants. But many will agree that the missing link in the North County has been the presence of the “arts”.
That’s about to change. Two interconnected art happenings are coming to town. The non-profit organization Studios on the Park, a unique art center with open studios and gallery space, has taken over the old Pioneer Auto Parts building on the Park and projects a late spring opening. Additionally, Studios on the Park has partnered with the City of Paso Robles to create the inaugural Festival of the Arts that will take place on May 23, 2009 in the downtown Park. “This is a very exciting time for the arts in Paso Robles and we want the entire community to jump into the festival atmosphere,” says Studios on the Park founder Anne Laddon.
The Festival of the Arts has been organized to appeal to both lovers of fine art and to families and children. “We’re describing parts of it as ‘fun, free and family” says Barbara Partridge, Studios on the Park Board member and Festival Chair.
The Festival day will include;
• Adult art workshops and demonstrations
• A public mural project
• Hands-on art classrooms for children
• Live music performances and an afternoon concert, all of which will take place in the city’s beloved downtown park.
• Free scenic educational tours of the beautiful Salinas River Corridor will take place throughout the day.
“I’ve never seen such wide spread support from the City Government, the Main Street Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the merchants, the wineries. They have all come aboard with the highest level of enthusiasm and unparalleled teamwork”, remarks Partridge.
“Studios on the Park has arranged for over 55 nationally and regionally acclaimed visual artists to participate in the Festival. Studios will also run the exciting Plein Air Quick Draw Competition & Auction where visitors can watch a work of art come to life in just two hours!” declares Sasha Irving, Event Coordinator.
Many community groups have joined in the effort to produce the inaugural Festival of the Arts. The Paso Robles Senior Advisory Committee, the Library Foundation, and the REC Foundation have each pledged $10,000 as seed money for the event and equally substantial in-kind donations have been received from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
The City of Paso Robles’ has pledged substantial commitment to the Festival because the effort complies so completely with the 2006 Economic Strategy Report. Meg Williamson, Assistant City Manager, says “The majority of staff and community volunteer time devoted to this event qualifies for an in-kind match from a State Grant the City received for purchase of private property within the river corridor.”
The Chamber of Commerce also supports the Festival and has offered to make up welcome totes for Festival artists, as well as other publicity provided by the Chamber. One Chamber member, the Red Scooter Deli, has agreed to donate box lunches to the Plein Air artists.
The theme of this year’s Festival is “Follow the River, Paint the Dream” and reflects the confluence of the City’s Salinas River Corridor project and the visual arts that will be celebrated and showcased at the Festival. Invited artists have been asked to create pieces portraying the Salinas River in order to draw attention to it and the extraordinary property the City is working to protect. The public will have the opportunity to view these works at the Festival’s River Show. There are so many great locations, that it is hard to pick the very best places to propose in NYC . No matter where you pop the question in this amazing city, you really can’t go wrong.
None of this would be happening without the inspiration of Paso Robles resident/artist and Studios on the Park founder, Anne Laddon. She remarks, “I have thought over the last several years that Paso Robles and the North County have an incredible number of talented, accomplished artists and it seemed to me that we needed the opportunity to share our passion for the arts with the community.”
Working long hours over months and months, Laddon and her dedicated Board of Directors started from scratch to create the Studios on the Park non-profit organization and have carried out a myriad of tasks on their way to seeing her dream of bringing the visual arts to the North County become a reality. The City of Paso Robles has approved building plans, local artists have responded with enthusiasm and the modest renovation of the 1130 Pine Street building is being completed so that 20 founding artists can move in. A new two-story structure will be built in the future as fundraising permits.
For more information about the Festival of the Arts, go to http://prcity.com/fota/. For additional information on Studios on the Park, go to www.studiosonthepark.org.