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ArtWalk returns to Little Italy for 21st edition

Art collectors and browsers alike will hit the streets of Little Italy this weekend for ArtWalk. The annual festival features hundreds of emerging and established visual artists exhibiting and selling their work, along with five stages of performing arts and hands-on art projects for kids -- all against the lively backdrop of Little Italy.

The free event takes place Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m.

"Celebrazione Little Italy San Diego" at an ArtWalk kick-off event Tuesday. The mural will be mounted at the corner of Grape and State Streets in Little Italy and will be completed by the end of summer. Staff photo: Sue Belmonte

"ArtWalk just continues to grow, it seems," said Sandi Cottrell, managing director of ArtWalk. Now in its 21st year, the footprint has expanded to include Ivy Street. ArtWalk now runs through the heart of Little Italy from Beech to Ivy, with 335 artist booths set up on the streets off India.

The Ivy Street addition gives people the opportunity to explore the northern area of Little Italy, which "is just blossoming every week" with new shops, galleries and restaurants, Cottrell said. Ivy and India will be a hub of activity with 50 artist tents, the KPBS Umbrella Project and performances by Il Circo.

In the KPBS Umbrella Project -- similar to the Refrigerator Art program of years past -- 11 artists transformed seven-foot patio umbrellas into original works of art for auction. The painted umbrellas will be on view at ArtWalk and bidding will continue throughout the festival, with proceeds benefiting KPBS.

Attendees will also get a sneak peak at the newest touring show by Il Circo. The acrobatics troupe, which produces the Cirque de la Mer show at SeaWorld, will present 20-minute preview performances throughout the day Saturday and Sunday.

Other performers scheduled to appear include Butterworth Dance Company, Carol Ames, Al Howard & the K23 Orchestra, Gregory Page, Saba, Billy Shaddox and Pete Thurston. And parents will be happy to know that KidsWalk is back in 2005, offering hands-on art experiences for kids at the northwest corner of Fir and India.

The two-day event draws artists and patrons from all over Southern California, giving artists' work broad exposure to a diverse audience, and providing buyers and browsers with a unique opportunity to meet artists and buy directly.

"A key mission of ArtWalk is to allow more people to have access to purchasing original work," said Cottrell, "having it in their homes to live with, and to have met the artists -- the artists that sell their work are all here on hand."

Lynden Saint Victor began his painting career in 2002, with his first formal presentation at ArtWalk 2003. It resulted in a sold-out show.

"Sweet Dreams" by Lynden Saint Victor, one of 12 featured artists chosen from among the hundreds of participating ArtWalk artists. Courtesy Lynden Saint Victor | Enlarge Photo

"ArtWalk is one of the best shows I've ever done," said Saint Victor, one of 12 ArtWalk featured artists. "It's so well attended and promoted. The weather's great, it's relaxed, and people do want to buy art."

Featured artists are chosen from among the hundreds of participating artists, and their work is featured prominently on the ArtWalk Web site and magazine.

Saint Victor creates surreal, brooding work with strong underlying narratives. ArtWalk, he said, allows him to connect directly to buyers -- a relationship that extends beyond the initial sale. Collectors who buy his work at the event also get first rights to buy new pieces.

"I'm still selling to people that I sold to in the first year at ArtWalk," he said. "Many people from (ArtWalk) have three to four pieces of mine."

To Grant Pecoff, another ArtWalk featured artist, the festival means exposure to a wide audience at relatively little cost. Pecoff's vibrant, joyful paintings are inspired by his world travels. The San Diego-born painter, who currently lives in the Bahamas, has participated in ArtWalk for the last five years. At last year's festival he sold $20,000 worth of paintings in two days.

"For an event which is not a juried exhibition -- where you would pay a huge amount to get in -- I had no idea that ArtWalk would be able to provide those kinds of collectors," he said. "Last year, my booth was full of people the whole time."

Artists pay $375 for a 10-foot square tent for the weekend.

But the artists aren't the only ones who benefit from ArtWalk. The event is also a boon to businesses in Little Italy, from hotels and restaurants to shops, pubs and galleries.

"The hotels are full, the restaurants do extremely well," said ArtWalk Managing Director Cottrell. "It's very much a community event -- we work with every single business in Little Italy to accomplish this large event."

ArtWalk featured artist Grant Pecoff's "Canal Homes of Amsterdam." Courtesy Grant Pecoff | Enlarge Photo


Cost: Free

Dates: April 23-24

Time: Noon to 6 p.m.

Location: India Street, between Beech and Ivy, Little Italy

More information: www.artwalkinfo.com, or pick up a copy of ArtWalk Magazine, available at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble and Bookstar bookstores.

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