The kick-off for the two-week ArtsSonoma &‘10 Festival was held Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. It was part art-show, rock concert and learning fair. It also was a call to arms against what Santa Rosa artist Warren Hedgpeth labeled “cultural bankruptcy.”

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ArtsSonoma Festival launched


There was some boogie-woogie, a bit of scratching and a thrown pot or two.

Saturday's kick-off event for the two-week ArtsSonoma &‘10 Festival was as eclectic as it comes, and then some.

Billed as a "Day With the Arts," the all-day event at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts was part art-show, rock concert, dance recital and learning fair.

It also was a call to arms against what Santa Rosa architect and artist Warren Hedgpeth labeled "cultural bankruptcy."

"We have the wine festivals and insurance symposiums, but we need these cultural events for the analog world, for the playing of instruments and for the reading of poetry," said Hedgpeth.

Hedgpeth was among 55 visual artists who presented their wares at the kick-off event.

Another was Santa Rosa artist Diana Lee, whose demonstration of drawing on a "scratchboard" drew a crowd.

Using a sharp cutting tool, Lee cut into a piece of clayboard that was topped with a white chalky substance and black overlay. The thin white lines that were revealed with each cut eventually formed the image of an old man.

"Oh my, is this your work? Fabulous," Bernadette Howard said to Lee.

Howard, a Sebastopol painter, said Saturday's event represented a welcome opportunity to network with other artists and the public at a time when economic woes are forcing galleries to scale back or close.

"Artists are thrown into marketing themselves," she said. "Having a venue like this helps."

Potter Laurel Begley agreed. Her demonstration of making clay cups using a potter wheel — also known as throwing pots — also drew interest.

Beneath a large white tent, 7-year-old Jada Byrne was engrossed in making a building using bits of cardboard and glue.

Julie Byrne, the girl's mother, said she was happy to let her daughter play for as long as she wanted to.

"We were going to leave at noon and there's one thing after another to do. My daughter loves it," said Byrne, a substitute teacher at Montgomery High School.

Saturday's event represented the launch of this year's ArtsSonoma, a countywide festival that over the course of two weeks stages numerous public art offerings.

The festival, which is managed by the Arts Council of Sonoma County, is in its second year and runs through Sept. 12.

While some who attended Saturday's opening day said they were happy to not have to fight any crowds, some artists confided that they were disappointed by the turnout.

"It's got good energy. There's not enough people," said Santa Rosa sculptor Mario Uribe, whose artwork includes the large leaping trout in the fountain at Prince Greenway Park and Veterans Memorial Monument at City Hall.

He said Saturday's event might have benefited from being closer to downtown Santa Rosa.

But Kathleen McCallum, who helped organize the opening day of the festival, declared herself satisfied with the results.

"We drive to Sausalito for that art festival. We drive all over the county for ArtTrails. This is a great location," she said.

McCallum said it is important to promote the arts in a time of economic recession and that for her, Saturday's event had good "synergy."

For more information about the two-week festival, visit http://www.artssonoma.com/2010/.