La Mesa Park and Recreation Foundation Director Misty Thompson said the inaugural Art In the Park fundraiser, which was created in just six weeks, raised about $9,000 on May 21 for future community park events.
“This is the first year, it is a brand new event. We were in a board meeting, talking about fundraisers, and realized we had one day on the calendar where we could squeeze in an event,” Thompson said.
The full plan includes three different components spread out over summer: a main Art In the Park fundraiser which took place May 21 in the La Mesa Community Garden, submitted youth art on display at Grossmont Center for a few weeks, and a final showing at Allen Airways Museum on Aug. 13 with a silent art auction.
“This first part is a wraparound fundraiser for the park, proceeds will go to our Expand the Parks program with concerts, the geocache program, earth day events, it helps with the community garden, park appreciation day- any events that are free to the community,” Thompson said.
Between 40 and 50 artists entered roughly 90 pieces into the competition— some entered up to 10 works of art while others submitted just one piece. Submissions were not allowed to include political references, images of presidents or negative imagery and generally were expected to adhere to the same rules as the art seen on utility boxes around town.
“This time, we just asked for paintings and received all kinds of art on canvas but next time if someone wants to bring in a statue, or mosaic, or pottery, we might be changing the rules so we don’t have as many limitations. It was a learning experience to see the need and desire to do something like this within the community,” Thompson said.
The judged art was all displayed in the community garden while the Rolf Olsen jazz quartet played in the background. Attendees were able to purchase the art and profit from any pieces that sold were split with 40% going to the fundraiser and 60% going to the artist.
Come Monday morning, Thompson said “everybody just loved the venue” and the event went well.
“Watching the artists show up and see their artwork on display was lovely. We had a few people step up and offer to be future sponsors as well,” Thompson said.
The second portion of the plan, displaying youth artwork at Grossmont Center was canceled due to lack of submissions so the art will be moving on to its third stopping point: display at Allen Airways Museum, located at Gillespie Field in El Cajon on Aug. 13. There, artwork will be auctioned off with proceeds again being funneled back to community park events.
“The artists set their own value between $30 to $600. Some said they didn’t want it to go on to the August event and requested to get it back after the first event. We made it easy for them, it’s their piece of art, our whole goal is to see them showcased so they make a little money, and we make a little money,” Thompson said.
The most striking observation, Thompson said, is seeing submissions come in from “all levels, from amateurs to professional artists” and the wide variety of artwork that was submitted.
In addition to working with the newly-established La Mesa
Arts and Culture Commission, Park and Recreation, organizers also worked alongside the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce and La Mesa Village Association to bring in submissions and spread word of the event, and anticipate adding vendors and more entertainment as Art In the Park grows with future iterations.
The event is “definitely one to be repeated,” Thompson said.