Festival of the Arts hits Palo Alto this weekend

Palo Alto festival returns to University Avenue Aug. 27-28

Talk about surreal: A man recreates Octavio Ocampo's "Visions of Quixote" in chalk on a 14-foot by 10-foot parcel of asphalt -- without pay. It's audacious, heroic even, and after the festival ends, passers-by on Tasso Street will be left with only the vague notion that once, something extraordinary took place here, before the rain and the traffic washed it away.

The valiant knight-errant is Chris Brake, one of 60 street artists who will be performing live at the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts on Aug. 27 and 28. This year's festival features gourmet food vendors, live bands, kids' activities and a kinetic sculpture garden.

All of that is peripheral, of course, to the more than 300 artists traveling from around the country to showcase and sell their work.

"As cliche as it sounds, there's truly something for everybody," Claudette Mannina said. She handles marketing for MLA Productions, which has run the festival for many years. "We put a lot of care into ensuring there's a really strong variety."

That includes a strong variety of artists whose works would make bold, tasteful additions to any home. For those looking for potentially functional pieces to spice up their living quarters, here are a few artists to watch out for.

Jenny Stepp

Roseville artist Jenny Stepp calls her small, square table a "statement piece." It represents the fusion of her two principal media -- steel and glass -- and traverses other boundaries as well.

"Every bit of this was chosen for aesthetic value," she says, but one can't help envisioning it next to the front door under a set of keys. It's undeniably practical. Stepp says she's most intrigued by steel, which she manipulates through heat forming, welding and other means, and she adds glass for the bright color contrast.

Visitors to Stepp's booth at the festival can expect to see the table and a variety of steel-and-glass sculptures and wall hangings inspired by the artist's curiosity and personal life path.

Holly Tornheim

The term "woodworking" doesn't really do justice to Holly Tornheim's work. That denotes bed frames, cabinets, the sort of bulky things that constituted her previous work as a carpenter.

First introduced to wood when building a house in the foothills near her home in Nevada City, Calif., Tornheim was drawn to its feel, its life and the opportunity to use local materials. After her daughter was born, though, she no longer wished to frequent construction sites, so she sought other opportunities to create.

She now produces small wood sculptures inspired by water, such as "Wave," in which her medium almost resembles the flowing, splashing chocolate from a Hershey's commercial. The same smoothness and fluidity applies to her "Art for the Table" line as well, which includes bowls, serving spoons and the like.

Hannie Goldgewicht

When admirers learn that Hannie Goldgewicht grew up in Costa Rica, they nod understandingly. "I can see where you get your colors," they say.

The artist, now based in Tarzana in Southern California, shrugs it off. "I just like to find new colors," she said.

She can't deny the Latin American influence on her work, however. On a trip to Argentina, the boyhood home of her husband, artist Leo Gotlibowski, she observed women weaving baskets from pine needles. For her, the idea to combine pine-needle basketry with ceramics simply "clicked," she said.

The bulk of Goldgewicht's work now consists of two distinct parts: a lower half made of grog, a sandy ceramic material that lends itself to intense color and rough, earthy textures; and an upper half of pine needles bundled together almost like rope. The result is a line of vessels that are at once ancient and entirely new.

Sharon Jackman

What stands out about a Sharon Jackman piece is the tree. Literally, it snakes up and outward from the rest of the vessel, as though emerging organically from the otherwise smooth surface.

Jackman's "Cliff's Edge" series, she says, celebrates the trees she has observed bursting from cliffsides, growing against all odds.

To create the image, she starts by throwing a bowl on a pottery wheel in her Laguna Niguel, Orange County, studio. She then draws a tree in the clay's leather-hard stage and carves out the negative space. She applies a soft clay called slip, adds color to the trunk, fires and coats the surface with a glaze that causes crystals to grow naturally. The crystalline glaze marks much of her work, lending it its shine and organic quality.

Kurt McCracken

With Picasso-esque eyes, squared noses and ribbons of piano keys, much of Kurt McCracken's work can be described in a way that most ceramics can't: cubist.

That's not the only appellation that could apply to his work, though. One could just as easily say abstract, sharply colorful and huge. As part of his repertoire, the Clayton, Calif.-based artist makes vessels several feet tall, meaning there's room for nearly any combination of colors and forms on his canvas of clay.

Sandy Kreyer

Sandy Kreyer, of Long Beach, sells her pottery with labels like "flower pot" and "coffee mug," which is helpful, because one would otherwise be prone to place it on the mantle, under the spotlight. In fact, Kreyer's work aims to bring life and beauty to the mundane tasks, like holding the cinnamon.

Hand-painted flowers adorn each of her works, and patterns evoke past luxury -- like a girl's dream tea set, only classier.

What: Palo Alto Festival of the Arts

When: Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: University Avenue, Palo Alto, between High and Webster streets

Cost: Free

Info: MLA Productions

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Need a working link in the story to more info.

Like this comment
Posted by Thanks
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Thanks for the reminder!!!! I could use a mini-vacation.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

This event causes a huge disruption to Palo Altans and brings disreputable elements into our community.

They should have the event in the Bay Lands or Mitchell Park.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2011 at 8:33 am

These delightful festivals occur throughout the Spring and Summer in all of the Peninsula towns....Palo Alto is the only one that complains.

PA is not a friendly place anymore. City of curmudgeons? Even this announcement about a celebration of community (just as any/every piece of news these days) generates hostility in these pages.

I'm going to the Fair. It's a fun summer celebration. Y'all Come!!

Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2011 at 11:40 am

Don't assume that Sharon speaks for most Palo Altans. We've been in PA for many years and always enjoy the fair. So do many, many of our neighbors.

"...brings disreputable elements" - really?! Maybe that means Rock n' Roll... devil's music! ;)

Like this comment
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I agree with Sharon. A park setting would be much more appropriate for the event. Walking on a grass field, is much more enjoyable than a paved city street.

Let's move future arts festivals to one of our parks!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

What Would it Take to Get Tech Companies to Move Jobs Out of the Region and Is This a Good Idea?
By Steve Levy | 25 comments | 1,536 views

Palo Alto's Taverna to expand next door
By Elena Kadvany | 2 comments | 1,413 views

A Power Play
By Sherry Listgarten | 10 comments | 1,347 views

College Match
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 959 views

Piles of artwork
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 516 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.