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An Artwalk History

By Steph Brady
The idea behind Salida’s annual ArtWalk began with three guys, Chris Byars, Michael Boyd and Michael Parry, whose intention was to create an inclusive social event for Salida artists. The existing galleries combined their efforts and mailing lists, advertised locally and made flags to identify participating galleries; the first annual Salida ArtWalk was held on June 23, 1993, with 16 venues.
The next few years saw a small increase in artists. I participated with Paulette Brodeur and Marcy Misata Csiky in a building across the street from what is now Amicas. Many of the beautiful old historical downtown properties in Salida were boarded up and rent was cheap, so it became somewhat of a haven for artists. They breathed new life into these run-down buildings and spaces, getting their creative juices flowing by sprucing them up. Without that cheap rent to start, I don’t think I would be here today as a gallery owner. Now rents have doubled and tripled in downtown Salida!
As the artists flourished, restaurants began hopping on board. Art begets good food and fine dining. Downtown Salida now has many cafes and restaurants, a couple of microbreweries and even a distillery. Along with the restaurants came the high-end bicycle shops, clothing shops and antique shops.
As the years progressed, so did the level of ArtWalk – there are now 59 venues. The whole town comes alive with creativity, music, dancing and amazing art.
Salida’s ArtWalk is unique, as many of the galleries are also artists’ studios. An eclectic bunch, some have been professional artists for years, while others have self-taught skill sets.
For years the gallery owners and artists were responsible for running ArtWalk, for advertising, marketing, and making the event what it is today, all on a volunteer basis. For years, Geraldine Alexander from the CultureClash gallery was at the helm, making sure we all stayed on task. She said trying to organize artists was like herding chickens. Now we have artists as well as community volunteers to help.
As the years passed, ArtWalk grew; much of its funding came from local businesses. The very popular mini auction began with each gallery doing 4 x 4 inch canvases, then progressed to 4 x 6. Last year there were two mini auctions – one during ArtWalk and one in November. Now, artists can work on a canvas up to 12 x 12 inches for the fall mini auction, a nice change for those who have been doing these small canvases for years.
Another feature, street dancing, began with the mud people. The first show consisted of scantily dressed people covered in mud dancing in the streets, beating drums, creating craziness and greeting art lovers. Street music was provided by Greg Walter, Terri Dunn, Steve Smalzel, Mark Minor and Jack Chivvis, who still play together today. Now there’s even more live music, inside the galleries and on the streets. There are also performances by the Salida Circus, a group of local performers, both young and old. Among them are elegantly costumed stilt walkers.
Each year more “newbies” arrive, joining those who have been here for years. We all work together to offer guidance and assistance to these new artists, sharing and suggesting what needs to be done to be successful and to thrive in Salida today.  We are now in our 21st year. Long live Salida ArtWalk!