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Change is in the air at San Diego Festival of the Arts

A sculpture made by David Falossi, a local artist and returning guest at San Diego Festival of the Arts.
(Courtesy photo)

This weekend’s juried art event, featuring 150 artists, will now be held in Del Mar and require attendees to be 21-and-up

This weekend, San Diego Festival of the Arts is shaking things up with a new location and age requirement. But the beloved art, and a commitment to a good cause, aren’t going anywhere.

The juried art show will feature work from 150 artists across various mediums, such as painting, sculpture, photography, glass, jewelry, ceramics and wood. Each artist will have a socially distanced booth filled with their work, and attendees will be able to browse and purchase from the displayed pieces.

“This is not like an arts and crafts show — this a show that is very difficult to get into as an artist,” says festival organizer Al Kovach, who also serves on the event’s jury. He notes that for the 2021 festival, they decided to cut back on the available spots — from around 200 to 150 openings — to maintain quality over quantity.

“The artists have been producing a lot of art in their studios, and they’re anxious for the public to see what they’ve been doing for the last year and a half,” Kovach says, adding that San Diego Festival of the Arts is the first big event for many of the participating artists since the pandemic.

Ten of the 150 chosen artists, including native San Diegan David Falossi, have been with the festival for more than 20 years. This year, sculptor Falossi will be exhibiting with his 21-year-old son and frequent collaborator Christopher Falossi. The father-son duo are known as The Rock Stars, a name inspired by their public carving demonstrations in Joshua Tree.

David Falossi, a San Diego sculptor, with his piece titled "The Spirit Climb."
David Falossi, a San Diego sculptor, with his piece titled “The Spirit Climb.” The artwork is located in Joshua Tree near the Farmers Market.
(Elena Falossi)

In addition to visual art, there will also be live music at the Main Stage and Ocean Stage, as well as the front gate. More than a dozen national and local acts — U.S. Navy Band, Rheanna Downey and Bayou Brothers, to name a few — will perform throughout the weekend. The two stages will also have food and drink vendors, including craft beer donated by Mike Hess Brewing and Coronado Brewing Company.

Rheanna Downey, a singer-songwriter based in San Diego, is one of the musicians performing at San Diego Festival of the Arts.
Rheanna Downey, a singer-songwriter based in San Diego, is one of the musicians performing at San Diego Festival of the Arts.
(Courtesy photo)

This long-running event, which debuted in La Jolla before moving to Waterfront Park in 2016, is celebrating its 35th year at a new home: the Surf Sports Park (formerly the Del Mar Polo Fields). The North County move is intended to make it more accessible for attendees, which includes increased parking.

Another big change is the shift from a family affair to 21-and-up approach. Though no specific reason was given for the new age requirement, an event spokesperson notes organizers are using last year’s pandemic hiatus to rebrand and curate a laid-back vibe for the attendees.

A painting created by one of the festival's featured artists, Antonio Proa of Tijuana, Mexico.
A painting created by one of the festival’s featured artists, Antonio Proa of Tijuana, Mexico.
(Courtesy photo)

All of the money raised from the festival benefits nonprofits that help people with disabilities, such as Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) — specifically, PVA’s program to send San Diegans to Durango, Colo., for one-on-one skiing training with a professional.

Kovach, who has worked the event for more than two decades, actually started out as a beneficiary of the event back in 1991. After training to be a Navy SEAL, Kovach broke his neck in a parachuting accident during combat training. He found purpose again with the help of PVA; the organization encouraged the former athlete — the art major was also on the swim team at Indiana State University — to get back into sports.

Al Kovach, left, with another ski scholarship recipient and paralyzed veteran in Durango, Colorado.
Al Kovach, left, with another ski scholarship recipient and paralyzed veteran in Durango, Colorado.
(Courtesy photo)

However, Kovach notes that the program is less about teaching paralyzed veterans how to ski and more about getting these individuals outside their comfort zone, which includes going on an airplane for the first time and talking about their disability with strangers.

“It’s more about people with disabilities ... getting on the mountain and facing your fears — you eventually get over your fear of falling down and getting back up again,” Kovach says.

Some of the festival’s other beneficiaries include San Diego City Schools Adaptive Physical Education, St. Madeline Sophie’s Center, Challenged Sailors, and the Wheelchair Dance Organization Program. Additionally, six of the featured artists were given their booths for free through a partnership with Artists for Autism.

Kovach says he anticipates more than 3,500 to 4,000 attendees per day to come out for the outdoor festival. The event will be compliant with all updated COVID-19 health and safety regulations followed by San Diego County. While facial coverings are currently not required for guests, the festival workers, volunteers and artists will wear them; attendees are asked to bring masks as a precaution.

San Diego Festival of the Arts

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Surf Sports Park, 14989 Via de la Valle, Del Mar

Tickets: Prices start at $12, parking is $10

Online: sdfestivalofthearts.org


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