Jeremy Bardell wandered downtown Sunday afternoon from his home a few blocks away, but it wasn’t to check out the flea market in Old Courthouse Square or the bars and restaurants surrounding it.
Bardell instead headed to a small parking lot two blocks north of the square for a novel little street fair meant to promote some of the lesser noticed pockets of the city.
“There’s two of my favorite bands playing, and Gerard’s Paella. You can’t go wrong with that!” Bardell said as he and his girlfriend, Tamara Rocco, took in the scene.
Rocco said the inaugural event reminded her of the vibrant mix of music, food and art that makes the art walk events in Sacramento, where she grew up, so popular.
“I think this could be the start of something like that,” Rocco said.
The mini-festival, officially called the “Out There Exposition,” represented an effort by the city’s economic development department to go beyond promoting local events to actually hosting them, or as Raissa de la Rosa, the city’s economic development manager put it, “curating” them.
“We’re trying to seed the entrepreneurship of art,” de la Rosa said.
By putting on events that showcase the talents of local artists, the city is both helping foster that community and broadening the appeal of the city to tourists beyond just a Wine Country destination, she said.
The city’s promotional web site, www.outtheresr.com, has just been redesigned, and the city wanted to put on something that would showcase the local talent highlighted by the site, she said. Santa Rosa has a lot of “hidden gems” and the city is trying to highlight them for locals and for visitors alike, de la Rosa said.
One of those gems, she said, is the Corner Store Collective, an Art Gallery on Ross Street, that was open to the public as part of the event and is filled with a series of edgy graffiti installations.
Offerings inside also included a photo booth superimposing people in front of Santa Rosa landmarks, maps letting people highlight their favorite places in their neighborhoods, a video about Santa Rosa’s roots in California skating culture, and a tattoo artist.
The city is hoping to create a more regular venue for arts downtown by helping local music promoter Josh Windmiller partner with San Francisco-based The Lost Church to open a 49-seat performance space in the vacant first floor of The Press Democrat building on Mendocino Avenue.
While other communities seem to be making it harder for artist spaces to survive, Santa Rosa seems to be supporting its art community, said Brett Cline, co-founder of The Lost Church.
The city, Cline said, has agreed to spend $15,000 to help him outfit the new “pop-up” art space, he said.
“We want to create a downtown performance parlor to serve the community,” Cline said.
De la Rosa said she envisions hosting a number of such arts events in different parts of Santa Rosa.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.