By B.J. Coleman
Mission Federal ArtWalk returned to Downtown’s Little Italy for a 35th year in a weekend celebration of beautiful artworks and live entertainment from performing artists. The arts festival was staged on Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28. The event filled 16 blocks in the heart of Little Italy, in an open-air gallery displaying the works of more than 350 artists.
New this year was a Surfboard Art Auction in partnership with Rerip, a nonprofit environmental sustainability organization specializing in repurposing used surfboards. Proceeds from the auction were slated to benefit ArtReach, which delivers visual arts education to San Diego County K-8 schools lacking arts programs.
Surfboard artworks were on display not only at the Piazza della Famiglia plaza’s auction site for bidding, but also scattered among several ArtWalk booths.
Carolyn Johnson of Laguna Niguel had surfboard art up for auction and other ocean-themed surfboards for sale at her booth. This was a natural fit, she noted. Johnson features sea imagery and colors in much of her painting, and she describes her art as mixed media, using acrylics and such elements as eggshells to bring texture and dimensionality into the creation.
Local artists, who live and work in Downtown San Diego, were well represented at the arts festival.
Marna Schindler traveled less than a mile from her combination home and art studio to display her vivid and lovely nature-themed paintings and prints.
“ArtWalk has been great to me,” Schindler said. She’s considered herself an artist from when she began creating art at the age of 5.
“Art gave me joy, a real sense of joy,” Schindler said. Her first ArtWalk was in 2005 and she has come back each year since then. Schindler was a featured artist at Little Italy’s ArtWalk in 2014. She is an award-winning artist for what she calls “folk art with a twist” — with bold colors, simple forms and expressive brush strokes. Most of her artwork subjects are animals and landscapes in nature. Schindler donates an original painting to Rescue House in Encinitas annually, to aid in animal rescue efforts. She also accepts commissions for pet portraits.
“This is a neat career to be in. Art is good for the soul,” Schindler said.
Some of Schindler’s most recent paintings are from the recent Southern California “super blooms.”
Another Downtown-linked artist also featured recent “super bloom” landscapes at her Little Italy ArtWalk booth. Rebecca Noelle is a plein air painter — an artist who paints scenes on-site outdoors. Noelle and her family lived in Downtown’s Little Italy from 2010 through 2015.
Noelle teaches art classes at Washington Elementary School and at the San Diego Rescue Mission since retiring from dance and theater at age 30. She painted outside at Balboa Park locations for two years. Noelle’s paintings of outdoor scenes feature both natural landscapes and architecture.
The 2019 Mission Federal ArtWalk was Noelle’s first art show back in action after she experienced a life-threatening car accident in November 2018. Noelle, her daughter and grandson were driving slowly in Noelle’s van through rain-slowed traffic, when another car hydroplaned on slick roadway pavement, spun around, ran backwards and slammed into the van. All three suffered whiplash injuries. That neck injury exacerbated overuse stress of “artist arm” for Noelle’s painting shoulder and arm. But she returned to painting early this year.
“This has been a good show and it is great to be back,” Noelle said.
Other artists concurred that this year’s ArtWalk in Little Italy was good for sales and exposure. Similarly, the auction organizers said that bids on the surfboard artworks were meeting or exceeding expectations as the online and in-person bidding wound down on Sunday afternoon.
The ArtWalk organizers expanded their event schedule and locations by incorporating a late summer show at Point Loma’s Liberty Station, which will be in its 14th year in August. A North County fine art and chalk festival was added with ArtWalk Carlsbad in September 2018.
According to La Mesa artist Jason Humphrey, “Little Italy is the granddaddy of them all. This promotes the love of art,” Humphrey said. Humphrey said his mixed-media artwork begins with “original ink,” followed by a layering technique, with images he dubs intuitive, noting the subjects are drawn from nature.
Humphrey continued, “At Little Italy ArtWalk, you can have intimate conversation with people who come by. You can talk about what goes into art, and how art has a healing property.”
More information about all these events is available at artwalksandiego.org.
— B.J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with the 22nd Legionnaire. Reach her at email@example.com.