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Bluegrass to ‘Les Mis’: Art scene highlights of 2013

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Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2013 12:00 am

This past year, art, music and culture blossomed in Lodi. The first-ever music festival in town was held at Lodi Lake, and a production of the longest running musical of all time hit Hutchins Street Square’s main stage. Plus, two new art galleries opened in the area and a book signing was held for a stunning collection of nature’s beauty in America.

Calendars are already starting for 2014, but take a moment to enjoy and remember the major cultural events of 2013.

24 Hour Theater

Mike Bartram and Sabrina Willis produced a theatrical event that hasn’t been seen before in Lodi. Six writers had 12 hours to write a 15-minute script. Next, directors and actors had 12 hours to rehearse and memorize the one-act play. A full crowd came out in the crisp October evening to find out if the performances would succeed or flop. The stories features zombie cows, hillbillies and demonic puppeteers in keeping with the Day of the Dead theme.

Small Works Art Show

It’s a tradition for the Lodi Community Art Center to hold a Small Works show each year, just in time for the holiday shopping season. This year, the show was bigger than ever, with more than 250 original works of art for sale in November and December at the new gallery on Pine Street. Paintings and photographs were less than 80 square inches, while sculptures fit.

‘Les Miserables’

Lodi Musical Theater director Nicole Howten pulled together a talented cast of 60 and chorus of 30 singers for one of the first community theater performances of the famous musical. The show ran for two weeks in November.

‘Art of the National Parks’ book release

A stunning collection of paintings depicting the beauty of America’s national park system was celebrated in a 400 page tome released in October. Every park is included, from the Florida Everglades to the Grand Canyon, and California’s own Yosemite. The book’s publisher, Fresco Fine Art Publications, asked Knowlton Gallery owner Robin Knowlton to host an exhibit celebrating the Yosemite art in the books. Those paintings, and their artists, came to Lodi for one weekend to promote the book and share their love of Yosemite’s beauty.

Bluegrass Festival

Five banjo-pickin’ bluegrass bands took to the stage at Lodi Lake in August for the first-ever music festival in town. The event, sponsored by Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, drew more than 500 listeners for an afternoon of music. Even kayakers and paddleboarders enjoyed the performance, with several passing by on the river slowed to take in a tune.

The Rusted Mic opens to performers

It’s not quite a bar, though you can order an ice cold craft beer or locally made glass of wine. It’s not quite a restaurant, despite the delectable dessert menu and range of cheesy panini sandwiches. It’s a music lounge on School Street with a classy, easy-going vibe opened by Jaime Watts in July. There are singers, bands and comedians every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. A weekly open mic tradition is going strong, bringing in a stream of new talent.

Lodi Community Art Center found a home

The members of Lodi’s community artist guild have hopped from location to location for years. This summer, they finally settled down in a converted storefront on Pine Street. Now, student and professional artists have a clean, bright gallery to display their creations, hold weekly classes and raise money for art student scholarships.

Captain Mike’s Outsider Art Gallery

This eclectic collection of paintings, ceramics and carvings was opened by Mike Mellot in Lockeford. It’s the result of years of hoarding pieces of art in his Simi Valley home; whatever took his fancy joined the gallery. Now, at the gallery that opened in late July, Mellot can share his collection with residents of Lockeford and anyone else willing to make the drive.

‘Pacific Rhythms: The Beauty of California’s Coast’ Show

For Robin Knowlton’s summer show, she sought out paintings of the cool Pacific Coast to bring mental relief from the hot Central Valley. The show focused on the extreme variances along California’s coastline, and ran from July 2 to Aug. 24. Featured artists included John Crosby, Ray Roberts, Kim Lordier, Charles Muench, and Randall Sexton.

Labor Day Lodi

The Hutchins Street Square Foundation brought back an old favorite in September. Many of Lodi’s older generation may remember Field and Fair Days of the ’80s and ’90s. This year, for the Square’s 100th anniversary, the foundation sponsored a one-day event with music, food, an art show, wine tasting, activities for children and a hot air balloon lifting off from the front lawn of the Square.



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