Battle of the Art Walks
By Kimberly Johnson
The history of art walks in the Inland Empire is a varied, expansive and colorful tale. Depending on the city, you’ll find yourself enthralled in a decade long story of arts activism; for another, a solely independent start up catapulted by optimism and trends. One thing that hasn’t been explored in the conversation of IE art walks, however, is which one reigns supreme. None of this Canon vs. Nikon or Android vs. Apple nonsense where one is favored for the novelty instead of real quality factor—we’re asking which IE art walk leaves you walking away with the utmost satisfaction for each of your senses, making you savor the visit till the very last paint drop. Take a gander at the Weekly’s experience at each of these fascinating and regular events, and then decide for yourself.
Every Last Saturday thru September
8200 Haven Ave.
3PM to 7PM
Rancho Cucamonga is a mini metropolis for the IE—densely populated with highly suburbanite homes and homeowners. Pristine lawns lay out like welcome mats for the beautiful houses on the hills scattered about the city landscape. A rich culture of quality living and refined taste for the Inland Empire exists in the neighborhoods of Rancho, however, one could say there’s something missing. If you compare the area to its neighboring cities, Rancho’s art scene (for all purposes of being lexiconically correct) is lacking—to say the least.
Since the inception of the city in the late 1800s, there has been one consistent regular theme of interest—wine. The wine industry carried Rancho Cucamonga for decades, owing much of its success and prosperity to the trade. However, now years down the line, an unfortunate correlation can be seen between the success of the city and the absence of a compact downtown district speckled with aged store fronts accompanied by antique architecture. In short, the city has been built up in a fashion that erases much of the historic culture lived within its boundary lines. Unlike Claremont or Pomona, even Big Bear or Redlands, the historic sites of Rancho Cucamonga were never given the chance to be reborn and recreated to serve an artistic light.
The Rancho Cucamonga art walk, taking place every last Saturday thru Sep. 28, is still in its burgeoning stage. It may be too early to say, but through a bit of analysis and good ol’ visitation to the venue’s events, it can be assumed that The Hourglass Art and Wine Gallery is the driving force coordinating the Rancho Cucamonga art walk, and seems to cater and speak to a particular kind of crowd. The love of pristine things, white carpeted rooms you’re not allowed into, houses on the hill, Merlot shared after a day’s work—it only makes sense that a cities art reflect the lifestyle lived within it.
3580 Mission Inn Ave. and surrounding areas
6PM to 9PM
The Riverside Artswalk, first launched in 2002, has contributed 11 years to its expanding art community. It was founded by Cosme Cordova, owner of Division 9 Gallery and Mark Schooley, Director of the Riverside Community Arts Association. It has been built upon, established and reestablished to display a huge success. However, the art walk known and loved by visitors is actually an extension of the history surrounding one of its main attractions. The Life Arts Building, built in 1909, created an impromptu art renaissance in the ‘80s. Beginning its journey as a YMCA building, decades of transition and change lead the structure to be used as a rental space. In 1983, an art supply studio rented the bottom floor of the building, drawing traffic by artists from far and wide. Eventually, an inquisitive bunch of art enthusiasts began requesting studio spaces to work within the Life Arts Center, making way for the creative safe haven it is today.
On any given first Thursday, the early hours of the evening are welcomed with a torrential outpour of visitors of all ages, artists of all levels of artistry and individuals with varying creative interests. Among the over two dozen galleries and venues on the radar and off, one area of interest unique to the Riverside Artswalk is their widely popular artist vendor lot. Located at Lot 44 on the corner of Lemon and University, the vendor lot showcases artists and entrepreneurs from all corners of the IE and beyond. Similar pop up shop type boutiques can be seen at the Pomona and Ontario art walks, but the enthusiasm for the crafts available at the Riverside branch seem to be an event of its own.
As far as gallery life in downtown; there is no shortage. There is a great variety in venues showcasing art activities and exhibitions including District 9 Gallery, Riverside Community Arts Association, Riverside Art Museum, the California Museum of Photography, Sweeney Art Gallery and Culver Center, as well as GOPA Gallery and the Blood Orange Info shop—plus many more. The Riverside Artswalk is set in motion to extend the arts to the community, take advantage of it and enjoy.
Second and last Saturdays
119 W. Second St.
3PM to 9PM
Downtown Pomona in the early ’90s read clearly as a recession stricken city. Morbidly decorated with the rampant closing of shops, boarded up windows and empty streets vacant of human visitation, the recession painted an abysmal grey hue over the once bustling township. For its proud residents, including Ed Tessier, it was a bleak and unsettling visual of the suffering city’s decline.
However, in 1992 Tessier—equipped with a degree in urban sociology, devised a plan to restore some of the vitality lost in the recent years. Keying in on the underground art culture already established in Pomona, he (and a business partner) decided to capitalize on it, opening The Haven, a combination art gallery and coffee house. For readers born at the tail end of Generation Y, this venue is observed as one of the original businesses that formed the Second Street art scene. Here, artists of the downtown area were able to congregate and creatively expand throughout the newly established Pomona Arts Colony.
As the years went on and Tessier established a solid foundation for—not only the art walk, but for a greater sense of identity for this art colony.
Held every second and last Saturdays, the Pomona art walk has become a can’t-miss event. Each gallery and venue in the downtown area hosts its own event with its own great programming. Walk down Second Street and follow the arrows up a flight of stairs till you hit Loft Beats. Head further down the road and vibe out at The Glass House. Stop by Bunny Gunner, the dA Center, the Main Street Gallery and dba 256 to get your art fix. Look north, south, east or west and you will be facing somewhere utilizing the creativity that seems built in to this historical art colony.
205 Yale Ave.
5:30PM to 8:30PM
The only real unfortunate thing about the Claremont art walk is the solid half hour spent looking for a parking space. In reality, we can blame this on the fact that “Claremontians” genuinely enjoy their Friday nights out on the town and will happily pack the wife and kids into the family Prius and head down Indian Hill Blvd. to enjoy it. And it should be no surprise that the Claremont community cherishes it’s accessibility to the finer things, art being one of them. However, it’s a difficult task to describe the Claremont art walk since the entire area of Claremont Village is an event within itself. Surrounded by divine Victorian style homes and oak trees sprouting from the end of winding roads, Claremont is basically Pleasantville, but after being adulterated by art, culture, craftsmen architecture and college kid ethics. Vintage pubs brewing craft beers, high end specialty eateries and quite a few organic soap shops (we had no idea there was such a demand for organic soap) sprinkle the community highlighting the distinctive tastes savored by its inhabitants. Nevertheless, if you find yourself here on art walk night rightfully more concerned with the art than the soaps, the main hub of the scene is the Packing House.
The Packing House, built in 1922, was left as a monstrous and desolate warehouse for the better part of three decades, the city finally bought the building, transforming the abandoned establishment into the successful homestead it is today. Upon entering the Packing House, the structure reads somewhat as a mall, just devoid of the chain stores associated with the mall experience. One of Claremont’s unique angles on the execution of their art walk is the welcoming environment for children’s presence. Although Pomona’s art walk takes place just on off ramp away, the two events differ in content, making one, for the most part G- rated, while the other leans more towards PG-13.
Once you’re finished making your rounds here, First Street Gallery just down the road, is an excellent place to head next.
The atmosphere is colorful, yet an essence of business and the sense of efforts towards making good impressions linger in the air. Many gallery owners and artist participants dress in their Friday night best, showcasing character and quality. Bottles of red wine can be seen sitting atop pianos and vintage bookcases in the distance as you await the inevitable girl plus guitar plus story of world travels sets up her stage. And it would be a disservice if it wasn’t mentioned that “Claremontians” are almost European in their frugality with wine and whimsical stories. All of this enjoyed over discussions of art and the exchange of opinions.
Every 3rd Saturday thru September
119 W. Transit & 211-223 W. Emporia St.
6PM to 10PM
The essence of the Ontario art walk (OA) is one that holds true to the element of surprise. Driving down Euclid, passing one tractor farm after another, it doesn’t quite feel like you’re heading towards something with even the slightest pulse. But off in the distance Emporia Street is within view. Spearheaded by the same unit responsible for the success and revitalization of the Pomona Arts Colony, the OA is being given the same red carpet treatment used to bring about the Pomona art walk.
It takes a moment to let the reality of the scene set in, but eventually you surface from the sea of crowds and can see the spotlight of this local event—a Museum of Donuts. Although there is no historic fable told of the first bit of sweet dough that fell into a deep fryer, there are in fact, donuts hung from the walls and other various surfaces displaying them in all of their flaky, luscious glory. It is the existence of galleries such as this that send out a vibe of relaxation and leisure.
The OA is simply a calling for art lovers to make an appearance, to give what they have to offer, to eat their donuts and share in their conversations. Being that the high majority of the lofts are not only studio space, but also utilized as a home, it’s impossible to escape the sense of community sent out by its residents. The OA is like a monthly block party (if you were lucky enough to have really cool neighbors). But since we aren’t all as lucky to be able to live next door to a guitar playing glassblower or a couple who freely gives away donuts, I don’t think the Emporia Art Lofts mind if we use their energy to get a taste of what it’s like.
BEHVSE of School Yard Bullies
For years, Behvse has scoured the street in search of bare walls and surfaces to eternalize his name. Spending a large portion of his youth in the rustic world of street art, the San Bernardino native—by way of L.A.—has grown and progressed in his creative passions, co-spearheading lifestyle and apparel brand, School Yard Bullies (SYB). With over a decade and a half under his belt, as well as a list of other commendable accomplishments, the Weekly is honored to have such an accomplished graffiti master on our cover.