By Bob Uphues
The 12th Annual Riverside Arts Weekend, the two-day juried art fair featuring live entertainment, food and fun, comes to Guthrie Park at Riverside and Bloomingbank roads on May 18 and 19.
This year's fair features a smaller group of artists – about 40 -- most of whom are new to the fair but who will present work across all media, from paintings and sculpture to wood and metal work to photography, jewelry, ceramics and fabric.
"It's out first outdoor event in Riverside for the year, and people come out to see the artists and neighbors," said Jill Mateo president of RAW's board of directors. "It's a chance to get out and see Riverside at its finest in springtime to support the arts and the art community."
While many of the artists this year may be new to regulars, local photographer Chris Neumer, whose striking images of Riverside are popular with visitors to RAW, has been a mainstay and will be back again this year.
"I exhibit my work in a lot of shows and galleries, but Riverside Arts Weekend is my favorite of the bunch," Neumer said. "It's not only my home, but a place of exquisite beauty and joy. Being able to have people who live there and feel the same way as I do view my work is an absolute treat."
RAW runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 18 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 19. Live entertainment will be provided by at least five groups, including (on May 18) the Hauser Junior High Jazz Band, Edgar Gabriel's String Fusion and local favorites The Redmonds and (on May 19) Melanie Devaney and the Scott Tipping Trio.
Food and drink will be provided by Blended Fruit Smoothies, Empanadus, 34 East Lounge and Aunt Diana's Old Fashioned Fudge.
Riverside Arts Center will be staffing a children's activity tent where kids can create their own works of art.
Of course, an integral part of the RAW experience is the annual spectacle, which this year might not jump out at visitors to Riverside's downtown, but which involved the creativity of about 60 people to pull off.
Scattered about Centennial Park north of the railroad tracks and Guthrie Park to the south are five decorated benches, where – if it ever stops raining – you can sit and leaf through the laminated flip book titled "Fred and Calvert's Map," celebrating the 150th anniversary of the General Plan of Riverside, created by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, in 1869.
"We wanted it to be light-hearted, artsy and quirky," said Laurie Risley, who has coordinated the RAW spectacle for the past two years. "I wanted it to feel like a bunch of quirky artists coming together. It's a little irreverent."
Risley said she had intended to include writers in this year's spectacle, since visual artists have dominated past years' efforts.
"One of the ideas was to have a book, solely because we wanted to get more variety of talent involved," Risley said. "Writers were not involved in the past."
Asked if this year's spectacle could also incorporate the 150th anniversary of the General Plan of Riverside, Risley said the idea came together easily.
"Once they said that, I knew the book could be tweaked into becoming this educational, fun, quirky, artistic piece," Risley said.
Risley enlisted Riverside resident and writer Karen Doornebos to partner on editing the written content and graphic designers Meghan Bliss O'Donnell and Scott LeBeau to lay out the pages of the book.
They then recruited visual artists to create the multimedia water motifs, images of which appear on the corners of every page of the book as well as other images. Writers range from school kids who penned poems for the Olmsted Society's Reflections of Riverside poetry contest to folks who wrote historical sketches of Olmsted, Vaux and aspects of their plan as well as "fun facts" related to Riverside and the plan.
"The inspiration was to try to get as many different visual media in the book and give voice to the writers," Risley said.
The books are attached to the whimsically decorated benches by cable. The books at each bench are identical.
"The book is the crux of the spectacle," Risley said. "The benches are the places where the experience can happen."
The benches are being auctioned off online and bids are being taken until May 19 at www.32auctions.com/2019RAW.
People can purchase their own copies of the 14-page "Fred and Calvert's Map" book for $15 through June 30. Order copies (cash, check and credit card accepted) at Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road.