The Little Art Festival That Could

The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts has grown beyond organizers expectations

by the 2012 Paso Robles Festival of the Arts Committee

A Series of Fortunate Events

Momentum is a thing of beauty. When we started this adventure four years ago, we had no idea if the public would embrace it.

IMG_0842So you can imagine our surprise when the very first Paso Robles Festival of the Arts attracted 5,000 people to the downtown city park. Imagine our further surprise when, in 2010, the number of participating artists nearly doubled. Then, in 2011, when the eminent art historian Jean Stern of the Irvine Museum agreed to be our guest speaker, we got an inkling that this little art festival of ours might turn into something big. And boy, has it ever. 

Between sheer courage, lucky connections and lots of hard work, the 2012 Festival of the Arts has grown to THREE DAYS! ­Our art palette runneth over.

 Art in the Wild

2012 is a turning point for the festival in terms of artist participation. We have over 100 artists participating throughout the weekend and 30 of the best plein air artists in California in our Quick-Draw.

Just Plain CrazyPlein air artists are a rare breed of individuals. They insist on being outdoors as much as possible; they take in the details of life and set them down for posterity; they sometimes go to tremendous lengths to produce their art.

Thirty of the bravest and most talented plein air artists in the state will converge on the Paso Robles downtown city park on Saturday, May 26th at 9am for the Quick-Draw, with two hours to complete a painting. Many of them will also be showing off the best of their existing work in a special exhibition at Studios on the Park called “Plein Air Masters” and will be the subject of the keynote address on Friday that promises to delight and entertain.

We could not have imagined the success of this event to this degree when we started this dream. And it gets better.

The Collaboration of the Titans

Our committee of 14 hails from all walks of life and business industries. As a result, there is a unique mix of connections that have led to an AMAZING lineup of surprises at this year’s festival.

Friday’s guest lecture series leads with a talk on African American quilting called “Quilting a Culture and All That Jazz” by Dr. Denise Sheridan of Cal Poly. That’s followed by an avant-garde panel of local artists moderated by New Times’ editor Ashley Schwellenbach entitled “Don’t Feed the Artists.” The keynote address, “Plein Air Painters. Crazy About Nature, or Just Plain Crazy?” given by Stephen Doherty, editor of Plein Air Magazine, will round out the all-star mix of guest speakers.

Sand-masters_groupFor Saturday’s Main Event the Travel Channel’s Sand Masters will be building gigantic sandcastles on Pine Street and teaching our children how to do the same – all sponsored by PG&E. The Paso Robles REC Foundation has commissioned a giant sculpture to be placed on the river walk trail and the artist who is building it will bring it here for the public to see the work in progress; the Dragon Knight Stiltwalkers are back; there will be aerial ribbon acrobats performing; the fun local band the Mother Corn Shuckers will perform in a newly upgraded River Lounge on Pine Street; in addition to 70+ talented artists displaying and selling their work, 9 environmental partners, 10 youth activities and over a dozen live performances throughout the day!

Ridings_aerial2Sunday now kicks off with the Art & Soul Awards Brunch. Guests will munch on delicious treats, both savory and sweet, and enjoy the inspirational gospel music of the Karen Tyler Trio. Immediately following is the self-guided Exclusive Westside Art Tour that is being put on by the Paso Robles Art Association. The first tour if its kind in Paso Robles, it will pass through the private collections of two local home owners and promises to delight and inspire the art lover as well as the curious.


This feels like having a tiger by the tail. In a good way.

A Community Thanks You

FOTA - stilt walkerThis Festival of the Arts is a symbol of the spirit of Paso Robles on so many levels: It’s not afraid to think outside the box and take chances; it stepped up to fill the Memorial Day Weekend event gap to help keep the local economy healthy; it continues to thrive in the face of a recession; it is bringing something new and amazing to the community because it’s the right thing to do. None of us take for granted that 200 volunteers help us pull this off, that dozens of sponsors support this event and most of all, that locals and visitors come out to the event and continue to support the arts in Paso Robles.

For all of you that are planning to attend the 2012 Festival of the Arts, this community – both Paso Robles and its art community – thanks and welcomes you. We will be right there with you, having the time of our lives at The Little Art Festival That Could.