30th annual Sidewalk Fine Arts Festival is happening downtown this weekend

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on April 20, 2012

artist Michael Barnett at Menlo Park Sidewalk Arts Festival

The 30th Annual Sidewalk Fine Arts Festival has arrived along Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. The free event, sponsored by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, features an array of original works by 90 artists including jewelry, photography, ceramics, painting, sculptures and more.

Because most artists are be on hand to visit with patrons, many locals use the Festival as an opportunity to catch up with their favorite, long time returning artists. This year, we decided to meet a few of the artists who were exhibiting for the first time.

Michael Barrett (pictured above) is a Central California-based artist who works in glass and metal. “I started off in ceramics and could use the same equipment to do glass,” he said. “I think it allows you to go in more directions.” He’s displaying a wide selection of vases — “perfect for putting inexpensive Trader Joe’s flowers in” — this weekend as well as some tables.

Local product designer Jessica Cohen (pictured right) is exhibiting educational children’s furniture and accessories. “We think that since children see and use their environment differently than adults, their products and spaces should be appropriately designed,” she said in an artist’s statement. “Our goal is to develop thinking and making, in an unconventional, safe, designed space.” She’s been manufacturing locally and calls her company Tambino — “bambino” (‘child’ in Italian), + “tam” (‘innocence’, or ‘child’ in Hebrew).

Photographer Emanuel Volakis is not unfamiliar with Menlo Park. At one time he sold his photographs at a downtown store. He now runs a “by appointment only” gallery in Napa. He works exclusively in black and white and sepia, shooting with Canon equipment. “I develop using the traditional wet process in a darkroom.” Many of the photographs he’s showing at the Festival were taken in Versailles, Paris and Italy.

What attracted Oakland-based jewelery maker Victoria Ruta Skripa to the Menlo Park Festival was that “it’s a safe place to be.” She sells mainly through street fairs and says it’s surprising how many people try to rip her off at some locales.

Getting laid off, transformed former Executive Chef Gus Thomas’s life. “After that I was in food sales for awhile but am now focused exclusively on digital photography and art, shooting with a Canon 500,” he said.

The Festival runs today and Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sunday, April 22, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Photos by Irene Searles

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