By Bob Chute
The City of Paso Robles has joined forces with Studios on the Park to present the first ever Paso Robles Festival of the Arts, Follow the River, Paint the Dream Art Exhibition.
This inaugural event takes place on Saturday, May 23, and celebrates both the arts and the environment with an exhibit of river-themed art celebrating the Salinas River Corridor project. Over 60 nationally and regionally acclaimed 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 on display throughout the downtown City Park as well as at the new Studios on the Park, set to open the week before on May 15 at 1130 Pine Street, across from the Park.
The event kicks off at 9 a.m. with a Plein Air Quick Draw Competition and Auction, followed by a fine art exhibition, art demonstrations and workshops, a public mural project, hands-on children’s art classrooms, live music and performances, as well as an informative Project Booth offering free Guided Tours through the Salinas River Corridor, led by docents explaining the ecology of the Salinas River and its environs and plans for the future until 4 p.m. The day concludes with an afternoon concert in the park from 4 to 6 p.m.
“This is probably the biggest news for the arts in Paso Robles history,” stated Barbara Partridge, a board member for Studios on the Park and Chair of the Festival planning committee. “To be able to announce an event of this caliber to the community feels like the beginning of a new era. The Festival will make for a fun introduction to art for kids, and adults will be impressed by the talent of the artists who are participating. To attract this many acclaimed artists to a first-time event is virtually unheard-of and to have the community involvement that we are experiencing is very exciting.
“Many community groups have joined in the effort to produce the inaugural Festival of the Arts,” continued Partridge. “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 an equally substantial in-kind donations have been received from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.”
“I think locals and visitors will be surprised by the scope of the Festival of the Arts and will enjoy the many, many activities available,” stated Mayor Duane Picanco. “Paso Robles can really benefit from this cultural event and what Studios on the Park is planning fits in perfectly with the City’s Economic Strategy and the goals the community has stated are important to them: the arts, the Salinas River Corridor Project, and promoting the great attributes of our historic downtown.”
The City of Paso Robles is sponsoring the Festival of the Arts also to raise awareness of a beneficial opportunity to purchase private lands within the Salinas River Corridor with a $4 million clean water grant. (see sidebar) “We hope the community will come out and see the artists’ interpretation of the river, learn a bit about the River project and have a great time with the hands-on art activities and live entertainment,” stated Meg Williamson, Assistant City Manager.
None of this would be happening without the inspiration of Paso Robles resident/artist and Studios on
the Park founder, Anne Laddon, “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.
Former Paso Robles Mayor, and current 1st District Supervisor, Frank Mecham has long been a proponent of utilizing the river as a positive force in promoting Paso Robles and is applauding the city for their involvement with the Studios on the Park for the inaugural Festival of the Arts. “I’m excited and glad to see the continued focus on trying to connect the city with the river,” said Supervisor Mecham. “It’s refreshing to see the Festival of the Arts taking place this year, it’s a positive dynamic to make this river part of the planning for the future. I’ve strongly supported the Studios on the Park concept.”
During a December 2006 interview in Paso Robles Magazine, discussing the Salinas River Plan, Mayor Mecham stated, “I still believe it would be a catalyst, economically, that the community has never experienced before. But I think someone is going to have to hold onto the dream and the vision, with the entrepreneurial spirit, to make the investment in doing some of these things. It’s going to take some partnerships, some very strong
public-private partnerships. It’s going to take some good planning and I think you’re going to see this plan. This is going to be a dynamic effort, something that is ever-changing, ever-moving, and one that will go for the long term.”
And now, just two and a half years later, the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts celebrates the river.
Admission to the Festival is free and all ages are welcome. For more information see www.prcity.com/fota, www.visitpaso.com or www. studiosonthepark.org.
Thanks to Julie Matthews of the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce for her contributions to this article.