In this nuclear winter of our national discontent, it’s local moments like this that warm the bivalve mollusks of my heart. The Sacramento art community is experiencing a renaissance, and for the next three weeks, you can see its most engaging exhibit for FREE. It’s called Art Street, and you owe it to your soul and psyche to check it out. Seriously, if you don’t go, you’re dead inside and no one can help you.
But to really appreciate what’s going on here, take my hand and let’s walk back ten or so years. Sacramento’s “art scene” was set on languid autopilot. It essentially amounted to Second Saturday, a monthly ritual in which midtown scenesters would wander from gallery to gallery swilling Two Buck Chuck from plastic cups and not actually buying anything. But a lot has happened since then. To wit:
- The Crocker Art Museum opened a 125,000-square-foot pavilion to expand from its dusty, rustic Victorian origins.
- The Verge Center for the Arts opened, creating new artist studios, alliances and exhibitions.
- The Capitol Box Art Project turned traffic utility boxes into canvases (vinyl wraps actually) for public art display.
- Warehouse Artist Lofts, a mixed-use/mixed-income community for artists opened in Sacramento’s Historic R Street District. It is not only a vibrant center of art and commerce but also quite fire safe.
- Art Hotel happened. (More on that below.)
- The Sacramento Mural Fest became a thing, adding tons of public art to the grid.
- Just last month, the new mayor and city council passed a $500,000 appropriation to help arts programs, beginning with a $25,000 grant for the Art Street show.
The momentum that has pushed the Sacramento art scene to this point is potent. It’s exciting. It makes our aspirations to destinationhood appear manifestly legit.
OK, so what’s Art Street? It started last year with Art Hotel when the Hotel Marshall, long Sacramento’s derelict residence of last resort, was finally closing its doors for good. Seumas Coutts, cofounder of M5Arts, saw the dilapidated space as an opportunity. He organized an effort to turn it into a temporary art installation and invited over 100 local artists to transform its interior spaces. Part of the allure was its impermanence. It was open for ten days only, and visitors were only able to go inside for 15 minutes at a time. Unless you returned for multiple viewings, you missed a lot. Despite the restrictions, Art Hotel was a huge success. This year, a similar effort has resulted in an experience that’s just as stunning but more accommodating.
Art Street is located near the west end of Broadway in a sprawling 65,000 square foot warehouse space. With a ten dollar online donation, you can procure a reservation, but it’s free just to show up and wait your turn. And to keep you happy while you’re waiting to enter the main space, there’s also a very large outdoor area full of murals, art installations, a friendly bar, and a food vendor making savory stews and roasting whole pigs.
<more story below this freakin’ mind-blowing mosiac>
Once you get inside, a maze of corridors and alcoves lead visitors to technicolor delights, dystopian visions, social ruminations, urban archaeological sites, cultural retrospectives, and yes, another couple bars including a saloon playing black and white videos.
Your time inside goes pretty fast, and you won’t want to feel hurried. I suggest planning two trips to Art Street: one during the day and one during the night. You’ll notice different things on each trip.
Art Street’s last day open is Saturday, February 25. Go. Just go.