ARTS ON THE AVENUE
Because Art is Good For You
By Benjamin Fordham
If you like art, food, music, or the town of Rio Dell, you need to check out Arts on the Avenue, held on the second Saturday of every month in downtown Rio Dell. Put on by the Eagle Prairie Arts District, the event is based loosely on Eureka and Arcata’s Arts Alive! and Arts Arcata events, but more relaxed.
“It’s a really laid back feel, not a lot of rules and guidelines,” says artist and event co-founder Adam Dias. “If you want to show your work, come on out and show your work.” Dias says all they ask is that everything be family-friendly.
Arts on the Avenue is designed to be a fun-for-all-ages event, with sidewalk chalk and bubbles for the kids (and adults. Don’t limit yourself). As afternoon turns into evening, local businesses stay open late to accommodate the festivities. A passport raffle is held, where you can get stamps from businesses and win prizes. Last month’s winner received free monthly pizzas for a year courtesy of The Rio Dell Pizza Factory. Past events have also featured mixed martial arts sparring tournaments at The Mill MMA, and fire dancing.
This coming September will represent the two-year anniversary of Arts on the Avenue. In addition to the monthly events, the district has four themed events per year. February saw the Pin-up contest, last month was Art, Brew, and BBQ day, and Wildwood Days is in August. There will be one more event with a theme yet-to-be-determined.
Last month’s Art, Brew, and BBQ event saw an estimated 300 people come through. “There was a terrific turnout,” said arts district Secretary Monica Warden. Some different mediums on display included fine arts like oil painting, watercolors, and pencil drawings, crafts like weaving and tie-dying, and wood and metalworking, among other things.
Arts on the Avenue is the brainchild of Dias, Nick Angeloff, Judy Hollifield, and Ayala Talpia. Dias, Hollifield, and Talpia founded the Eagle Prairie Arts District in an effort to give local artists in the Rio Dell, Hydesville, and Fortuna areas a place to create and display their works. The district currently has 41 members, who pay dues as little as $10 per month. There is no commission charged for sold pieces.
“Everybody threw $35 into a pot and said ‘Alright, let’s form an arts district,” says Dias. “It was flooded daily (with artists). It became pretty clear in a hurry we needed a place for these people to show their work.”
The event has also roughly coincided with the revitalization of Rio Dell’s downtown. Dias says that 60 percent of Rio Dell’s storefronts used to be vacant. Now, that number is down to 10 percent. “We worked really hard, got a grant from the Headwaters Fund,” he says. “But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”
“The ultimate goal is to have a revitalized downtown where business is booming,” he says. There are still seven vacant lots that need to be either cleaned up or refurbished, and the Rio Dell-Scotia Chamber of Commerce is interested in restoring some of Rio Dell’s historical Italian design character.
Dias also points out that Rio Dell, with some of the most affordable rental space in the county and a steady supply of tourist traffic in the summer months, is a great place for new artists and businesses to set up shop.
“We have a much further vision,” he says. “We’re trying to make this into a vibrant area.”
The Eagle Prairie Arts District offices and gallery are located in the Rio Dell-Scotia Chamber of Commerce building, 406 Wildwood Ave. They can be reached by phone at (707) 506-5081, and by email at email@example.com.
“Creativity takes courage”
– Henri Matisse