Alley Cat Art Walk has community ‘feline’ good

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Every year, the Rea Arts District comes alive for the Alley Cats Art Walk, a festival celebrating local artistry and the talented hands that bring it to life.

The highlight of the evening-long affair is undoubtedly St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, which showcases the work of their students, adults with developmental disabilities. The Center gave out pastries, cheese and wine for visitors who came through to admire the sculpting, jewelry and art of the amature artists.

Every year, the Rea Arts District comes alive for the Alley Cats Art Walk, a festival celebrating local artistry and the talented hands that bring it to life.

The highlight of the evening-long affair is undoubtedly St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, which showcases the work of their students, adults with developmental disabilities. The Center gave out pastries, cheese and wine for visitors who came through to admire the sculpting, jewelry and art of the amature artists.

St. Madeleine art instructor Erin Bartleson said the center gives gifted students an arena to try and better their skills.

“There are so many talented people, so it’s a great opportunity to get them making art,” said Bartleson. “It’s so empowering to them, I see them grow so much just through sculpture and in that creative environment.”

Bartleson had her own exhibit at the art show — flower pots. Each pot, sculpted by Bartleson, had a Art Nouveau-esque face protruding from the smooth sides, the plants growing out of the pots resembling hair for the pot-heads.

“I’ve been a painter most of my life, but this is a new venture for me, new material,” said Bartleson, who said she always wanted to make planters.

A first timer to the art show, Bartleson said she was surprised by how large the event was.

“This is incredible,” she said. “It’s a really good vibe and a great turnout.”

It was indeed a good turnout. Every cranny of the alleyway and the surrounding shops were flooded with visitors perusing the booths, stalls and galleries of all manner of artwork ranging from life-like metal sculptures of Old West scenes to gaudy glass jewelry.

Lisa Bebi, a La Mesa-based artist who grew up in Lemon Grove, propped up several of her paintings for display.

“I wandered around and it looks like a happy crowd,” said Bebi of the show. “And I really like Sophie’s. I think they do a great job.”

Bebi, a graduate of SDSU and mother of three, said a lot of her work draws from her own family and childhood. “Party of One” depicts her serious father with a party hat on his head next to Joshua tree, the dull colors of his surroundings and silhouette set in riveting contrast to the pink hat on his head and pink convertible behind him.

Bebi has been a full-time artist since 2000, has been published and won awards for her work.

Musicians Ricky Giordano and Kevin Jones provided ambiance to the show from inside the Center with their live jam session. Giordano is not new to performing for the center, but it was a first for Jones.

The two have been playing together since they met at SDSU.. Or was it the Scofield show? Or their friend’s house? They cannot remember, but it was a decade ago and Giordano said they enjoy the opportunity to try new things together in venues like this one, where the crowd is consistent and casual.

“It’s great to be able to play freely and experiment and take chances,” he said.

The sentiment seems to be reflected across much of the artwork on display around the alley, with the same welcome reception as the music of Jones and Giordano.

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