Las Colibrí, an all-female mariachi band, at the Annual Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

SANTA MONICA — The ambience of a block party pervaded last weekend’s 13th Annual Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk as the all-female mariachi band Las Colibrí strummed their guitars, hungry art goers queued up at numerous food trucks, and kids learned how to make jewelry out of upcycled office supplies. Inside, crowds packed the airplane hangars converted into studios to see the works of artists who opened their spaces for the day. One often had to pause for a moment or more to avoid collision with armadas of baby carriages and flocks of gallerinas criss-crossing the hallways.

Crowd in the main hanger

Sabine Pearlman in her studio with “Totem Poles” installation

Tucked into the central building’s maze-like layout, Sabine Pearlman’s “Totem Poles” stood out amid the throng. Created as memorials to and meditations on the loved ones she lost this past year, one might assume these sculptural elegies to be somber in tone. But the colorful pigment prints of Pearlman’s totems reflect the life rather than the death of those whom they commemorate.

Ameeta Nanji in her studio

Past the gourmet coffee cart, viewers were arrested by the work of Kenya-born, Venice-based artist of Indian descent, Ameeta Nanji, whose mixed media canvases pay homage to the tradition of Indian miniature painting. A right turn led to the colorful brushwork of Rebecca Youssef whose palette is equally influenced by her childhood in Oahu, education in the Sonoran Desert, and work as an arborist-in-training restoring the Santa Monica Mountains’ native trees. Door after open door revealed artists engaged with interested viewers asking why and how they made their work.

In the next building over, the Ruskin Group Theatre performed selections from its LA Cafe Plays, one-act works written in a nearby coffee shop over the course of four hours or less by aspiring playwrights. While one might suspect such hasty works would fall flat, Remembrance of Things Past by Stephen Mazur, performed by William J. Beaumont and Ryan Stiffelman, had the jam-packed audience cracking up and asking when the next play was scheduled.

Rebecca Youssef in her studio

Ruskin Group Theatre Cafe Plays, William J Beaumont (left) and Ryan Stiffelman (right)

Finally, at the furthest most building on the Airport Artist Studio campus, a dozen or more ceramicists spun their clay on wheels or carved it into relief while talking to inquisitive art goers mesmerized by the transformation taking place in real time. Finished works were displayed simply on card tables covered in white butcher paper, imperiled somewhat by the streams of people filing past.

The Ceramics Room

Far from the lofty air of an average open studios event, the Santa Monica Airport Art Walk instead cultivated a cozy atmosphere. Allison Ostrovsky, Cultural Affairs Supervisor for the City of Santa Monica, told me that the goal of the art walk was to “pull back the curtain so people can see the creative process, see and talk to artists about what they do, what their space looks like.” It also gives a chance for visitors to participate, with a host of art classes, workshops, and music.

While other such events might and often do dissolve into kitsch, the Airport Artwalk impressively succeeded in displaying interesting contemporary art while appealing to the large crowds.

Yossi Govrin, artist in his studio

Massimo Ruiu, “Mare di Lacrime”

The 13th Annual Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk took place at the Santa Monica Airport on Saturday, March 23. 

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Lorissa Rinehart

Lorissa Rinehart is a Los Angeles-based writer whose work has recently appeared in Hyperallergic, Perfect Strangers, and Narratively. As an independent curator, she has organized exhibitions at institutions...

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