A new website, a new openness to guest artists and no alcohol — changes are in store for the fourth year of Benicia’s downtown Art Walk.
The Art Walk, launched in 2012 by a committee of local artists, has gone through its period of being overseen by the city. Many saw this year as the time to take the event to the next level, Benicia administrative assistant Teri Davena said.
“The evolution of the Benicia Art Walk 2015 came about through brainstorming with city staff and the Art Walk Committee, chaired by local artist Pat Ryll, with impetus from Judi Morales Gibson, who wanted to take the Art Walk to the next generation,” Davena said.
That involved partnering the Art Walk with Arts Benicia, the city’s preeminent arts nonprofit. “The idea of the partnership came from (Economic Development Manager) Mario Giuliani, who wanted to give the Art Walk the best chance to grow by taking the government (and its restrictions) out of the event,” said Gibson, who is now Arts Benicia coordinator for the Art Walk. “It was a gracious gesture on the city’s part, who clearly wants to see the Art Walk succeed.”
With a new vision, the Art Walk will try new things. In particular it will welcome guest artists and crafts people, invited from surrounding communities, who will be hosted by participating venues in the downtown area.
This, Gibson said, will hopefully create a street fair atmosphere.
“Art Walk will recommend artists to venues, but the merchants will have the final say in who they’d like to host,” Gibson said. “We want to foster relationships between artists and the community.”
At $20 for a vending fee for local artists and $40 for those from outside Benicia, she said, Arts Benicia members will also have an affordable monthly venue to exhibit and sell their art in the downtown area.
“Mass-produced and imported merchandise will not be allowed,” Gibson said. “Our goal is to support the entire community — artists and businesses alike. Downtown Benicia has so much to offer, so we want to turn this into a vibrant destination event for Benicia and the greater Bay Area.”
As in previous years, there will be themes to each month’s Art Walk, beginning with Steampunk Obtained April 11. Using only Obtainium — found objects, or those that are obtained — steampunk combines Victorian, Wild West and Jules Verne styles in a fictional alternative history.
Guest artists from Vallejo’s Obtainium Works and other Bay Area steampunk studios will exhibit art cars, art, clothing and jewelry. Cullen’s Tannery Pub, which has a heavy steampunk theme, has expressed its enthusiasm through Twitter by posting “Benicia’s April 11 Art Walk is Steampunk! We are causing an art scene and hosting the party!”
Other Art Walk themes are not yet solidified, Gibson said, but some in the works are Kids Eco Art, Glassworks, Pedal Power (art bikes), Arsenal Artists and, for October, Day of the Dead.
“The idea of the new Art Walk format is to add inclusivity and diversity of art forms. There is a lot of creativity and inspiration pulsing around Benicia, so we want Art Walkers to see something new each month,” Gibson said.
Hours have been changed as well: noon to 6 p.m. for the daytime portion, then a special evening edition that takes place from 6-9 p.m. “Our research showed that some Art Walk-goers prefer the night life, so we wanted to offer evening events,” Gibson said. “We hope to have multiple evening art venues with special events. We are also encouraging more local restaurants and pubs to host live music on First Street. We’ve already had some music acts show interest in performing, ranging from Speakeasy Blues to a Celtic Cowboy Band.”
The event has a new website, beniciaartwalk.org, where visitors can find details about upcoming events, including a live Google Map showing participating venues’ location, hours and events.
One big change this year: Art Walk venues will not be serving alcohol. “We prefer Art Walkers to frequent our downtown restaurants and pubs, who are encouraged to offer Art Walk specials,” Gibson said.
If You Go
Benicia Art Walk is the second Saturday from April to October, with the exception of August because of the Peddlers Faire. For more information visit beniciaartwalk.org.