LJ event one of state’s top-rated art shows

The La Jolla Festival of the Arts, now in its 23rd year, will host more than 190 artists and thousands of visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 20-21 at the UCSD East Campus.

The event, which has raised nearly $1 million in proceeds for programs that serve San Diegans with disabilities, has expanded its lineup of presenters and added new attractions to create one of the most popular art events in this region of the U.S.

“It has always been a California event. It’s now becoming a Western event,” said Ronn Rohe, the 2009 festival chairman. “What is new this year is we have 195 artists from throughout the West and Baja California. We have conducted an outreach program to Baja Norte to encourage artists from Mexico to come and join us, as well as buyers and patrons.”

Last year’s festival drew approximately 8,000 visitors. Rohe said the goal this year is 10,000.

Headlining the list of what’s new in 2009 is “Calle Color,” a street chalking exhibition featuring work by madonnari (street artists), a children’s area and the inaugural High School Street Chalking Competition.

“It’s a very exciting, interactive exhibit to walk through,” Rohe said. “You get to see the chalk art being made.”

The family-friendly festival will include live entertainment, food vendors, celebrity author lectures and book signings, events for dads in honor of Father’s Day, a children’s recreation area and representatives from some of the programs supported by the fundraiser.

The main draw, of course, is the art. Each participant must pass an exacting jury process, a measure that has created and maintained the event’s reputation as one of California’s top-rated art shows.

Visitors will have an opportunity to view work from painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers, glass artisans, ceramicists and jewelers.

“We have, broadly speaking, about 12 disciplines represented at the La Jolla art festival,” Rohe said. “What makes us somewhat unique from other festivals is that we require the artist to be at the festival both days. That enables the patrons to meet the artists, really find out about them. It’s a very one-on-one experience.”

Jeff Yeomans, who was selected as the featured artist of this year’s event, said the festival provides an opportunity to interface with people, which rarely happens at more traditional art venues.

“I’m in galleries and other places,” Yeomans said, “but to be in front of a hometown audience is important.”

The Ocean Beach artist who “paints what he knows” - plein air urban landscapes reflecting San Diego’s surf and beach culture - added that the casual, laid-back atmosphere of the festival seems to make it easier for people to strike up conversations with artists.

“It’s a very, very good way to eradicate the distance between artists and collectors,” he said.

Since its inception by the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation, the La Jolla Festival of the Arts has raised almost $1 million, which supports about 30 organizations and agencies that assist people with disabilities. Some of the beneficiaries include The Adaptive Snow Ski Program, Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp, Helen Woodward Therapeutic Riding Program, Canine Companions and Sharp Hospital Rehabilitation Center.

“I think it’s good when your work can give back on some level,” Yeomans said. “It’s nice to know you’re part of something that generates, from year to year, a substantial amount of money for kids who need it. There’s no downside to … being part of something that gives back to the community.”

23rd Annual La Jolla Festival of the Arts

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 20-21
  • UCSD East Campus
  • 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla
  • Admission is $10 (Free for active military personnel with ID and children younger than 12)
  • Free parking
  • (858) 586-1202