Arting by the bay

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Experience artists from around the world and around the corner

The County Waterfront Park and the San Diego Bay will again provide the backdrop for the upcoming San Diego Festival of the Arts, which moved to Downtown last year from La Jolla. (Courtesy SDAF)

After moving to Downtown last year, following two decades in La Jolla, the San Diego Festival of the Arts — formerly the La Jolla Festival of the Arts — has found its home on the steps of the San Diego Bay.

Still produced by the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation in conjunction with San Diego Magazine, the 2017 festival will take place June 10–11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.

With nearly 200 established and emerging artists from all over the world scheduled to participate, the festival is expected to bring a diverse offering of art — including photography, painting, sculpture, jewelry, glass, wood, printmaking, fiber and textiles, ceramics and mixed media — to Waterfront Park on Harbor Drive.

Don Ludwig, co-director of the 2017 festival, stated in a press release that after the festival moved to Downtown, the response they received — not only from artists, but also guests and the local community — was “incredible.”

“We are thrilled to have so many wonderful artists committed to this year’s festival, set in such a stunning venue to showcase their work,” Ludwig said.

Despite falling just one month after the popular Mission Federal ArtWalk, held annually in nearby Little Italy, organizers feel there is room for everyone when it comes to the enjoyment of art. They also point to the allure of the bay and its sweeping views as one of the things that sets the two festivals apart.

In addition to the shared arts and community, there is also the mission of the festival that helps it stand out.

Since the festival’s inception in 1987, the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit — has used the festival as a fundraising vehicle, distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to “improve the lives of San Diego children, adults and wounded warriors,” through their grant and scholarship program.

“The SD Festival of the Arts is a major fundraiser for the San Diego adaptive sports community, raising more than $2 million over the past 30 years for programs and organizations that support individuals with disabilities,” Peter Ballantyne, co-chair of the festival, said in the release.

In 2016, 23 organizations received disbursements from the $90,000 earmarked from the festival’s proceeds, including, Ability First; Adaptive Sports and Recreation Association; ArtsBusXpress; Autism Society San Diego; Aseltine School; Challenged Sailors San Diego; Children’s Holiday Magic Project; Helen Woodward Animal Center; San Diego Brain Injury Foundation; St. Madeline’s Sophie’s Center; and many more.


A local angle

With dozens of international artists participating, one local, long-time SDAF participant performs her own philanthropic work.

Marna Schindler, a 14-year resident of East Village, gives a portion of the proceeds from her art to rescue organizations and animal shelters.

East Village resident Marna Schindler brings her bright and whimsical work
to the festival again this year. (Courtesy the artist)

A former graphics artist and illustrator, Schindler has been working as a full-time artist for the last 11 years and bringing her bright and whimsical style to the festival for nearly a decade.

“I loved the La Jolla locations it’s been in before, but now at its Downtown Waterfront Park location, I feel it’s even better than before,” she said.

To that end, Schindler points to the festival’s new central location and accessibility, and the fact it’s nestled between the historic San Diego County Administration Center, the Downtown skyline and the San Diego Bay, which all together, she said, offers attendees “an unparalleled aesthetic experience.”

Schindler also calls the festival itself “sophisticated” and “on par” with the award-winning Sausalito Art Festival, which was identified at No. 2 on the Art Fair Source Book’s “Prime 100” Fine Art events of 2016. SDAF also made the prestigious list, which can be found at

One of Marna Schindler’s whimsical, nature
inspired pieces. (Courtesy the artist)

“This level of sophistication is my favorite aspect of the show — it’s such a privilege to be a part of it,” Schindler said.

Citing her childhood teacher, Joe Nyiri, as her first mentor, Schindler said his initial impact at age 8 is still felt today.

“He taught me … that if you wanted to be an artist, you must use everything you see and experience as inspiration for your art,” she said. “That’s how I continue to see the world and I’m so grateful for his influence and generosity of spirit and talent.”

Schindler works with acrylic paints, known for their versatility and easy cleanup, and finished works can easily pass as more challenging mediums such as pastels or even oils. While she said she has many styles, the “unifying characteristic” of her artwork is “bright, vivid colors.”

“I’m a spontaneous, paint-by-the-seat-of-my pants kind of gal, so I enjoy a medium with maximum flexibility and color spectrum,” she said. “And, it’s a lot less of a hassle to clean up the cats when they choose to take part in the fun.”


Sidebars at the festival

In addition to the rows of art on display, SDAF will also have top-notch entertainment, food and beverages.

Three stages, the Main Stage, the Fountain Plaza Stage and the Acoustic Stage will offer a plethora of live music and local favorites. From U.S. Navy Band Southwest ensembles, to Dave Scott and Monsoon, Gilbert Castellanos, Island Mist, the Benedettis, and the Bayou Brothers, this schedule has something for everyone.

There will also be no shortage of food and drink at this festival. Hunter Steakhouse, Bottaro, Flavors of East Africa, Tres Tacos, Cousins Maine Lobster, Divine Fresh, Lemon Life, and Doggos Gus will all be in the offing.

Breweries and wineries on hand include Ballast Point, Mike Hess, Mission Brewery, Karl Strauss, Rough Draft and Stone Brewing, as well as California Fruit Wine and Falkner Winery.

San Diego Festival of the Arts incorporates a “giant games” area, which will entertain all ages. (Courtesy SDAF)

Organizers say the giant games section, which was a big hit last year with kids and adults alike, will again be near the beer and wine tasting area and give festival goers a chance to take a quick break from the art. Giant games planned this year will include Cornhole, Connect Four, and a Jenga-like Giant Tumble Tower.

“The best way to experience any art is in person for sure, so I encourage everyone to come out and make a great day or weekend of enjoying the festival,” Schindler said, adding that she will located near the northwest corner of the County Administration Center, by the circle of palm trees nearby. “Come by and see what my latest adventures have hatched!”

San Diego Festival of the Arts takes place June 10 and 11, from 10 a.m to 6 p.m., daily, at Waterfront Park, located at 1600 Pacific Highway at North Harbor Drive, Downtown.

Day tickets are $12 online and $14 at the door, and weekend passes are $16 online and $18 at the door. Children 16 and younger are admitted free, along with sctive duty military with ID. Follow them on social media at @SDFestivalArts or visit

—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at

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