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Among corn dogs and churros, rides and the coin toss, an oasis of artistic expression

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Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:00 pm | Updated: 1:22 pm, Tue Sep 11, 2012.

At the Lodi Grape Festival you can enjoy all the traditional enticements, from devouring churros and cheese curds to riding the Viper, a twisting, turning thrill ride.

But in a quiet corner of Jackson Hall, you can also learn something about the subtle wonders of art.

With easel, brush and canvas, members of the Lodi Community Art Center will be creating art in real time. They will also be explaining their works in progress and answering questions.

“I can and do create art in a variety of places,” said Rich Allen,  an oil painter and president of the center. “To create art in such a public place is truly special.”

The art center traces its history to the Lodi Art Club, started in the 1930s. Today, the center offers classes and demonstrations, stages exhibitions, and sponsors other art-themed events. Through an annual art show at the Woodbridge by Mondavi Winery each spring, the center raises thousands of dollars toward art supplies in Lodi schools.

The center holds classes and runs exhibits in space at the Lakewood Mall, Ham Lane and Elm Street.

Allen, retired after a career in the retail industry, is partial to landscapes. His interest in art blossomed when he lived in Edmonds, Wa. and he studied art at the School for Light and Color in Fair Oaks.

Early in his artistic career, he was given advice he passes on to beginners: “To be a good artist, first you have to give yourself permission to be a bad artist.”

Instead of a brush, Allen uses a palette knife to create his art.  An admirer of Monet, Allen finds the blade reflects his impressionistic vision more effectively than using a brush.

A team of six to eight artists is set for shifts at the festival. There will be an artist in residence each day of the festival from 4-8 p.m.

Allen likes to talk about color in art, especially the subtle ingredients of color.

“If you see a red, it may not strictly red. There may be orange and yellow there, even blue.”

Allen regards the festival as a rare chance to expose many people, especially children, to art.

“Lots of the questions come from the kids,” he said. “Many are really curious why I use the palette knife instead of a brush.”

While Allen feels Lodi does not yet have a high hunger for the fine arts, he feels that could change as the wine and visitor industries continue to develop. Ideally, he sees wine and tourism driving higher interest in cultural endeavors generally and the fine arts specifically.

In the meantime, Lodi’s art scene is vital if not extensive, boasting some accomplished artists, several of whom will be sharing their vision in a quiet corner of the Grape Festival.

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