By B. J. Coleman
San Diego Festival of the Arts returns for a charming third year
Thirty-two years is a long stretch for successfully bringing artists and arts fans together in celebration of fine artwork. On June 9–10, The San Diego Festival of the Arts staged its 32nd gathering in Downtown San Diego’s Waterfront Park, around the County Administration Building and along North Harbor Drive. Nearly 200 artists displayed original art pieces for sale at the weekend event. The festival has been held in the Downtown Waterfront Park since 2016.
Artwork on display ran the gamut from paintings, sculpture, photographs, and mixed-media art, as well as artisan-crafted glass, jewelry, ceramics, fiber and wood creations. The performing arts were represented at the festival too, with entertainers and musicians appearing on three stages at the festival grounds.
The event was recently ranked among the top 100 art fairs nationwide by the “Arts Fair Source Book.” The festival invites established and emerging artists to display their work, with a juried competition. Festival-goers could take a break from arts appreciation at the sunny lawn tables of the craft beer and wine garden, which further featured a variety of cuisine from San Diego restaurants, scattered around the main performing arts stage. Children of all ages could cool down in the spectacular setting of splashable water fountains, either to take in the gorgeous harbor views or get ready for outdoor games on the grass.
Darrel McPherson is an Escondido-based artist who has been presenting his paintings at this event, both for appreciation and for sale, since before the festival moved from La Jolla to its current location at Waterfront Park. McPherson noted that he enjoys the new location for the cool temperatures, lovely environment, and also easy access for booth setup and excellent layout of artist booths. McPherson describes his pictures as “art to live with,” with subjects focused on stunning scenes from nature.
First-time artist vendor Berndt Heidemann agreed with McPherson about the setting. Heidemann stated that he had driven from his home arts base of Palm Desert to be there. “You can’t beat this weather,” Heidemann said, noting the San Diego Harbor breezes. “The views are beautiful.”
Asked about his sales, Heidemann said, “The show has been OK for me. I am showing icons in my area at home. I plan to come back and choose more beach scenes tailored to this particular venue.” Heidemann stood for a photo next to his “iconic” painting of Frank Sinatra.
Painter Robert Fleming showed his artwork in tandem with his wife, Nancy Lynn. Fleming had traveled from Palm Springs for the festival, which he and his wife have attended for several years. Fleming described one drawback of the Downtown site in contrast with La Jolla. “Sales at the festival this year have been slow for us,” Fleming said. “The other artists I know from the desert have said the same thing. People in La Jolla had more money to spend on art, and they did.”
One new aspect of the 2018 festival, according to organizers, was raising the event’s musical profile with addition of world-class musicians to the entertainment lineup. Performing on Saturday, local legend Jack Tempchin, composer of the “Southern California Sound” in such songs as the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone,” wowed the audience at the Fountain Plaza Stage on Saturday afternoon. Riley Biederer, a recent standout singer on “The Voice,” entertained attendees on Saturday afternoon on the Main Stage and on Sunday morning at the Fountain Plaza Stage. Other entertainers at the festival included ever-popular guitarist Peter Sprague and the high-energy Bayou Brothers band, who rounded out the Sunday afternoon performances on the Fountain Plaza Stage.
The Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation and San Diego Magazine were producer-sponsors of the festival. Funds brought in from ticket sales and artists’ festival booth rentals go to benefit San Diego children, adults and wounded warriors. The emphasis has been on beneficiary organizations that serve San Diegans with disabilities and physical and mental challenges. Since 1987, the event has raised over $2 million for adaptive sports, companion and service animals, recreational activities and education programs. Proceeds from the 2017 festival disbursed more than $92,000 that went to benefit over 10,000 San Diego area residents.
— B.J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B.J. can be reached at email@example.com.