SAN DIEGO — Revitalizing downtown San Diego is not an overnight process--or is it?
Once a year, such magic can be worked, when ArtWalk banners are hung in galleries, studios, shops and cafes, drawing tens of thousands of people to explore the downtown area during a single weekend. ArtWalk, billed as a free open house of downtown's visual and performing arts, transforms tame sidewalks into teeming arteries. Overnight, it turns downtown's struggling art community into the hottest act in town.
The seventh annual ArtWalk, organized by the newly revived Installation Gallery and supported in part by the city of San Diego's Commission for Arts and Culture, takes place this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 12 to 5 on Sunday.
Much of what is highlighted in the roster of offerings is available year-round, but there also is plenty that is new, made to order for the occasion. Installation has commissioned four artists to create or present their works as special addenda to the usual fare, and guided tours of artists' studios will be given by members of the Combined Organization for the Visual Arts (COVA). A trackless trolley will run continuously on a circuit of 13 ArtWalk destinations, including the annual Avenue of the Arts crafts fair and the new ArtWalk Pavilion, featuring acoustic entertainment, food and information.
ArtWalk gets an early start tonight, with opening receptions and extended hours at several downtown galleries. Oneiros Gallery (711 8th Ave.) will open its new exhibit of British photographer Simon Marsden's work with a reception from 5 to 9. SimaySpace, the private viewing area for works from local physician and JAVA coffeehouse owner Doug Simay's collection, will be open to the public tonight until 9 (835 G St, inside ABC Books). And
from 6 until 8, Brighton Press (320 G St.) will host an opening reception for its show of recent fine-press publications, most of them combining poetry and prints.
Installation will inaugurate its new exhibition space at 719 E St. with an interactive exhibit by local artist Mario Lara, tonight from 7 to 9. Although Lara's show will remain on view through May 18, three of the four projects commissioned by Installation for ArtWalk will remain on view only through the weekend.
Cathryn Pisarski's project is the most fleeting of the four, but promises to be among the most engaging. Pisarski and two other actresses will perform a one-act work of environmental theatre among cafe-sitters at Croce's Top Hat Bar & Grille (822 5th Ave.). "Afternoon--Beforenight" will be performed twice Saturday (2 and 4 p.m.), with no performances on Sunday.
Also commissioned by Installation, a 10-year retrospective of paintings by local artist Wick Alexander can be viewed at the old Bank of America building (600 5th Ave.). Alexander describes his work as influenced by Mexican folklore as well as the contemporary Southern California environment. Roberto Salas' "mobile artifacts," another ArtWalk commission inspired by the local milieu, will be parked over the weekend on a lot at 8th Avenue and G Street. The five hand-painted cars reflect Salas' desire to fuse high art with popular culture.
The final ArtWalk commission, Leslie Nemour's four mixed-media installations on the theme of "Readings," can be seen through the end of May in the street level windows of the central library (820 E St.).
Many other shows have been organized to flaunt local talent before the 40,000 participants expected this year at ArtWalk. MPLA Furnishings will present a show of furniture designed by 27 local architects and designers at 631 5th Ave., and both the Koll Center (401 West Broadway) and the Emerald-Shapery Center (402 West Broadway) will host temporary exhibits.
ArtWalk has always served as an effective friend-raiser for the arts in downtown, but this year, two fund-raising events are planned as well. Guided tours to downtown studios will be offered Saturday morning at 10, 11 and noon and Sunday afternoon at noon, 1 and 2, starting at the COVA office (744 G St., Suite 102). The $10 charge includes lunch and visits to the studios of Gary Ghirardi, Jennifer Spencer, Walter Wojtyla, Barry Ebner, Carmela Castrejon and others. (Reservations are recommended. Call COVA at 234-0928.)
An "Artdance" at the Kansas City Steakhouse (535 5th Ave.) will be held Saturday night from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Artists will paint murals inside during the dance and Wick Alexander's "art light projections" will appear inside and outside throughout the evening. Admission to the ArtWalk benefit is $10 at the door.
For newcomers to the downtown scene, ArtWalk offers an extensive introduction to the area's cultural offerings. Even for regular patrons of the arts in downtown, ArtWalk opens a few doors that are usually closed. For all who attend, it's an eye-opening treat to see downtown's streets truly--if only temporarily-- revitalized .
ArtWalk maps are available at the ArtWalk Pavilion (5th Ave. at G St.), all 13 ArtWalk trackless trolley stops and Installation Gallery (719 E St.).