Alley Cat Art Walk is back and El Cajon downtown businesses are thrilled to see this event after a four year hiatus that promotes the many artists that call Arts Alley their home. This art festival on Sept. 15 will include tours of local artists shops and many of the other businesses in the area will host guest artist to be part of this fun filled event. With art, wine, music, food vendors, crafts and more, this year’s Alley Cat is a stepping-stone to bring back this event on a permanent basis. Held On Main Street, Rea Avenue & Arts Alley, the alley in between, this is a signature event as diversified as the many murals that adorn this alley.
Wendy Morris, director, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Gallery and Gift Shop in El Cajon said this the only art event held in downtown El Cajon. It used to be a two-day event and brought people in from the entire region. It began in July at first, but with the heat we moved it to October to coincide with Trunk or Treat. But that morphed into a large city event. The concept began when Sophie’s first opened and President & CEO Debra Emerson and Lynn Endicott, owner of Silver Creek Fine Art Gallery & Custom Framing, were chatting in the alley and came up with the idea to hold an event where people came in through the back doors in the alley. That is how the alley became the focal point of the event. Morris said they collaborated with the East County Art Association, the Friends of East County Arts to do murals, to judge artwork, hold juried art shows with all kinds of vendors. Back then the city closed Rea Avenue and had rides for kids and it was a large event.
“Since then, everybody wanted to bring back Alley Cat, and we have asked every year,” said Morris.
“We want to bring awareness of the galleries, studios and museums that are right here in this area. We have all sorts of murals in this alley, painted electrical boxes and we want people to come see that as well. It’s an outdoor art museum.”
Nearly the entire block is participating including the restaurants. The idea is to bring it back to give it a test run and then grow it in ways that will enhance it as a repeating community occasion.
“It is a very social event and gives the public the opportunity to see what is going on here,” said Morris. “We are trying to combine it with Dinner & a Concert so three or four concerts ago we started sending prints from Mark’s book. (A client of St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, Mark Rimland illustrated “The Secret Night World of Cats,” written by Helen Landalf) We chose alley cats from his book. So we have been raffling off items at the Dinner & a Concert so there audience knows that there is something really fun to do here not only the day of the event, but any time of the year. The Downtown El Cajon Business Partners have been great at already promoting this event”
Morris said the thought behind the process is that the concert audience will come early, have a look around, go see the concert, come back over to Alley Cat and have a glass of wine, look at some more art, or go to dinner. There will be a passport for attendees to check off by going to each business. Many of the businesses will host guest artists, giving the ability for patrons to see a wide variety of art.
Morris said they did a call to artists for painted quarter and half palettes. Those will be the visible place markers for the participating businesses. Alley Cat will urge those participating to visit the businesses with the palettes, they will be placed at the back doors of each business with the exception of a couple that do not have back doors to the alley, so people will have to walk around to the front of those businesses.
“There are a lot of things to do in downtown El Cajon and there is a lot of art,” she said. “We have artists with national and international reputations. It is a chance for people to come down and see what’s available. They can come and see paintings that they might want for their homes, see many of the handcrafted items from our students and even if they don’t buy then, they might come back when it comes time for holiday shopping. It is also a good build up for Small Business Saturday.”
Morris said everything at Alley Cat is free. There will be three children’s booths, a cat’s mask making booth, rock painting and a watercolor collage booth with June Rubin. The Iraqi Culture and Art Association is going to have a big booth, and there are some amazing artists there. There will be a musical stage and a food truck set up with tables and chairs so people can sit down and relax. Bands will be Sharon Dubois, Spiritual Storm and Gregory Page.
Endicott said this is the seventh Alley cat and it has been missed both by the downtown businesses and the community. She said that she did not want to discredit the wonderful events that the city has created and grown, but the city and the Redevelopment District are supposed to look out for the businesses in downtown, but with the recent boom in El Cajon’s large public events, Alley Cat got lost in the growth.
“Hauntfest is a wonderful event and so are the car shows, America on Main, Concerts & Dinner, but they are not dedicated to bringing people down here to look at the arts,” she said.
She said as great as these are for the city, it does little for the art and fashion businesses on Main Street, other than take up parking spaces for all of the businesses on Main Street, so she is extremely happy that Alley Cat is back on the block, and hopefully for the long run.
“Alley Cats is designed for that exactly,” she said. “To bring down adults with discretionary income to look at the arts, come here and spend some money, have some snacks, wine, go to the restaurants and eat you dinner. We have six businesses here dedicated to the arts and that is a lot.”
Alley Cat used to be on the first Friday of each month and all the galleries would be open. Endicott said when 2008 the economy dropped, so did First Fridays.
“I believe the economy is getting better. I felt it this year,” she said. “It is time to start doing Alley Cats again and people are interested. I think it’s a wonderful event. People wander down the alley and wonder why all of the cats on the murals, and people remember that and ask what happened to the event. I don’t know if we will go back to doing First Fridays, but I can see us doing an event like this twice a year, which I think would be a wonderful thing. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not a high pressure sales person, and no person here really is, but people love to come down and look at the arts and enjoy their evening.”
Endicott said her customers come to her gallery, but the idea with this is that it includes the other businesses, so her customers will see that the Elegant Man is open and go in there, or customers there see that she is open and come in and look around.
“They might not need custom framing, but someday they might,” she said. “That’s the idea in getting us all together so that we can intermingle. Maybe my customer is having a wedding and needs the suits that he has.”
Endicott is hosting abstract artist Kenda Francis, Glazed & Kilnfused artist Jackie Murphy, bronze sculpture artist Joe Eggert and El Cajon oil and watercolor painter Ski Torzeski. She is currently in the middle of a remodeling sale at this time and the event is perfect timing for her business and its future.
“I’m doing 50 percent off, and more on some items,” she said. “I want more space and it to be more open. I’m looking to have more wall space for the artwork. Some ask if I’m leaving. I’ve been here 40 years next April Fool’s Day. I’m not going anywhere. When the remodeling is done, we’ll be doing a big grand opening.”
Earlene Hollmichel, executive director of the Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center said she is happy to see this event promote the arts and hopes that everyone take the time to come and see the artwork of America’s most famous Western artist. She said that they will be serving refreshments and hosting gourd artist Mary Moreau of Black Horse Gourds outside the museum.
The East County Californian is happy to be part of the event and honored to host East County acclaimed artist Gloria Chadwick in its office.
Don’t for get to pick up your passports, visit all of the businesses with palettes and collect stamps for prizes for those that complete the Alley Cat Art Walk.
2017 Alley Cat Art Walk is Friday, Sept. 15 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in Downtown El Cajon in the alley between Main Street and Rea Avenue.
PARTICIPATING BUSINESSES & RESTAURANTS
Downtown Cafe of El Cajon
The East County Californian
German American Club of El Cajon
Por Favor Mexican Restaurant
Rock A Betties
Sammy Teana Market
Silver Creek Fine Art & Custom Framing
The Elegant Man
The Rich Artist
White Sage Gallery
Cat Mask Activity
Alley Cat Rocks! – Children’s Booth
Iraqi Culture & Art Association
Tara Heath Menzel – Independent Scentsy Consultant & 31 Consultant
Mary Moreau – Gourd Art
Mark Rimland – Vendor – “Secret Night World of Cats” Illustrator – Book Signing
June Rubin Children’s art project
Tara Slatton – Crafts
Trena Wade – Weaving project Peace Portal – Vendor Outside
White Sage Artist outside TBA