How to Get Your Art on at the Palo Alto Arts Fest

Tips from a local on getting the most out of the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts

by Caitlin Wolf

It’s the end of August in Palo Alto, and that can only mean one thing: time for the annual Festival of the Arts! Having grown up here, I remember being dragged along University Avenue as a child waiting impatiently as my mother and grandmother looked at this and considered that. I was more focused on where the frozen lemonade was and if I could get that and an ice cream at Gelato Classico on Emerson Street. These were the more important questions, obviously.

Now that my interests have grown to encompass the art at the festival as well as the food, I’ve found that it’s best to have a plan of attack when I go. Here are my tips for making the most of the “arts” part of the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts (Aug. 26–27, 10am-6pm on University Avenue). You might even start your art collection here. I have!

Set a budget. With 300 artists exhibiting, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume amount of art and the price tags. Knowing what you’re looking for and how much you can spend makes it much easier to enjoy work that is over your budget while focusing on the work that is within budget.

Erin Tajima Castelan at work on a street painting.

Go early. This way you can scope things out before it gets crowded. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the Italian Street Painting, too; it’s fun to see it in process over the two days.

Go both days if you can. This way you don’t get overwhelmed by everything, and you have time to think about a purchase.

Don’t forget to eat. A hungry person is not going to enjoy anything. This year Oaxacan Kitchen — a personal favorite — will be at the festival, but there is a wide variety of foods including fried calamari, roasted sweet corn on the cob, crepes and teriyaki. And there’s still ice cream to be found in the neighborhood: my favorite, Gelato Classico, but also Cream for ice cream sandwiches, Scoop Microcreamery and Creamistry for made-to-order ice cream.

Talk to the artists whose work you like. Everything on display is typically handmade or very limited production. My experience has been that even if you aren’t going to buy something, the artist is always happy to talk to you. And if you do end up buying something, you’ll have the backstory.

And now … here are 10 artists I’ll be checking out this weekend.

Coffee tastes better when the cream comes from a Sandy Kreyer pitcher.

Sandy Kreyer (Pottery)

I have a mug of Sandy’s from a few years ago and love it. Her work is bright, bold, and full of fun. And even in my clumsiest pre-caffeine moments, I haven’t broken it. (Fingers crossed.)

Tess McGuire (Hatmaker)

While I haven’t weakened for one of Tess’s felted cloche hats yet, I always stop by and try one on. This might be the year I buy one. Maybe this one?

Ingrid & Ken Hanson (Glass)

I love the Hansons’ work. In addition to brightly colored glass vases, tumblers, and bowls, they also make truly amazing lamps. Last year they had a beautiful poppy pattern on vases and tumblers. To date this pattern is my favorite of theirs.

Rings by Cornelia Goldsmith

Cornelia Goldsmith (Jewelry)

Cornelia is a German-trained goldsmith inspired by nature. Check out her beautiful tree brooches and try on one of her snake rings (they are very cute, I promise). If you are looking for a very special gift for a very special someone, this might be the artist for you.

Charles Rogers (Painting)

I love Charles’s work. Using bright, bold, in-your-face colors, he brings jazz music and dancing scenes to life. Just looking at “Bourbon Street” I can hear the horns playing and the crowd cheering.

Seascape by Will Pierce

Will Pierce (Photography)

What can I say? I’m a sucker for water, and Will’s Soul of the Sea series draws me in completely. While Will is a photographer, his work looks more like Impressionist paintings, a mélange of calm, soothing blues and greens, stunning aquas and even the pinks and yellows of the sunset.

Terry Steinke, “Walk Toward the Light,” aquatint

Terry Steinke (Printmaking)

With its beautiful and haunting images of California, Terry’s work reminds me of film noir. Looking at the prints, I wonder who or what is behind the tree or around the corner. My imagination takes off with the possibilities.

Cindy Bolin (Jewelry)

I love big earrings, and Cindy apparently loves to make them using sterling silver, copper, and different stones in whimsical and off-beat designs. In addition to creating the earrings to be right- or left-ear–specific, she adjusts them to your face by shortening or lengthening the earwires so they hang just right. I have a pair of large silver and turquoise flower earrings from Cindy that I wear all the time. What more could you want? One-of-a-kind, handmade, and customized.

An Andrew Carson kinetic piece for outdoors.

Andrew Carson (Sculpture)

Working to join “functionality with form,” Andrew’s kinetic sculptures — primarily of metals and glass — join mechanics and aesthetics. Take this opportunity to seem them up close and personal.

Isabelle & Leo Posillico (Jewelry & Painting)

This is two for one. Married, Isabelle and Leo are both artists but work in different mediums. I have followed Isabelle’s work and love it for the use of color and movement. I haven’t seen Leo’s yet, so this will be a great chance to check it out.

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