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Downtown Fullerton Art Walk provides a forum for community expression

It may be a secret to anyone living south of the 91 Freeway, but Fullerton is arguably one of Orange County’s most art-centric cities

Public art is on display all over town. A nonprofit, All the Arts for All the Kids, funds art instruction for an entire school district. An array of historic theaters host live performances and a free, one-day, citywide music festival — Day of Music Fullerton — is held every June 21.

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And the Downtown Fullerton Art Walk is still more proof of the love affair with creative expression

Staged on the first Friday of every month in the historic downtown, Art Walk encompasses roughly 20 venues — boutiques, coffee houses, salons, comic book stores and galleries — with each featuring local artists’ works.

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“I think it is really diverse,” said Jesse La Tour, a journalist for the community newspaper, Fullerton Observer, and a Fullerton College English instructor, who founded the art walk in 2010. “We get all ages … all sorts of people … just a nice collection of pleasant, stimulated creative unity of people.”

A self-described art lover, La Tour wanted to create venues for local artists to display their creations.

When he noticed a few local businesses displaying art to coincide with exhibit openings at a downtown gallery, La Tour took a notebook and a pen and walked from business to business to gauge interest in participating in an art walk.

“In 2008, there wasn’t a lot of things to do at night besides (going to bars),” La Tour said. “We wanted to provide a space for people to still hang out and have a good time and maybe take in a little culture. Also, I think it’s important to create a physical space where people can gather, especially in downtown Fullerton, where there is a big bar scene.”

The Magoski Art Colony, a no-frills brick warehouse on Santa Fe Avenue that houses several galleries and artists work spaces, serves as the walk’s unofficial hub.

Within the Magoski are the Violethour and Hibbleton galleries, homes to hard-hitting exhibits, sometimes aesthetically pleasing, always thought-provoking.

“We’re looking for art, not necessarily that will match your sofa,” La Tour said. “We want to show art that will get people talking and thinking.”

The Hibbleton’s current exhibit, “Unconquerable Inertia,” is described by its curator, Shannon Kim, 23, as a “divergent collaboration of artists across mediums … pushing through all doubts and uncertainties to still create and create again.”

Kim grew up in Fullerton and said the Art Walk vibe is “pretty underground, but definitely welcoming.”

“There are a lot of cafes in Fullerton that have local artwork that doesn’t tend to be gallery work, but it is still something people can have access (to) and purchase if they would like to or support just by attending,” Kim said. “I think art adds a certain amount of value to a place. I’ve started to live in different cities in Southern California, and I’ve noticed there is a lack of art in certain areas, and it felt a little disappointing.”

Longtime artist Nancy Johnson has rented space in the Magoski for about 18 months, displaying her pieces during Art Walk and curating the works of other artists.

When asked to describe the monthly event in a single word, Johnson responded: “community.”

“It’s real art,” Johnson said. “I mean, it’s not your typical marketing art in Home Goods or that type. It’s gritty, hometown artists. It’s a little edgy. It’s a little raw. There is some deep art here. There is a lot of heart and soul in the art.”

Sarah Elizabeth, 23, a regular Art Walk attendee, said the monthly event can have a galvanizing effect on people with varying backgrounds and opinions.

“I think that is a good way to bring community together and to showcase what people are thinking in the community,” Elizabeth said. “It’s an opportunity for discussion to unfold, and through discussion, we make progress and art is about opening up these doors.”

Lou Ponsi is a contributor to Times Community News.

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