By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Arts events are common these days. Every month, if not every week, denizens of the Uptown area can plan a weekend outing to dine on the cultural arts, whether a new gallery exhibit or theater production opening, or a festival of film, music or visual arts. But not every arts event includes attractions such as an athletic ballet of wrestling villains and heroes or a standup comedy trolley or elegantly crafted crossbows. These are a few of the many fanciful features that define Art Around Adams, coming up on Saturday, June 4.
The free event was born of a desire to promote local artists and Adams Avenue businesses. The result, after 12 years, is a cornucopia of visual and performing artists who prove art can be beautiful and fun, startling and family friendly. This year, Adams Avenue businesses, between Hamilton Street and Biona Drive, will play host to nearly 300 painters, ceramicists, sculptors, jewelry-makers, musicians, performance artists and comedians. They’ll be positioned at storefronts, in parking lots and indoors — and on the Comedy Trolley.
Actually, there are two free trolleys that feature standup comics while taking visitors along Adams Avenue. Jaleesa Johnson, who has lived in the area for five years, leads a collection of 24 other comedians who will keep the jokes, puns and double entendres rolling.
“This is my second year [in the festival],” Johnson told San Diego Uptown News. “It’s so much fun, sort of like open mic. It’s all standup comedians who come from all over San Diego.”
Johnson described the trolleys’ talent as wide-ranging: “You have people like Jeffrey Burner, who is so clever, a George Carlin type, but weirder. Then you have folks who are very jokey, lots of puns and word play, silly but fun. We keep it clean when there are families on board. It’s great for people who normally wouldn’t go out to a comedy club. They can see us in their neighborhood, in their own backyard, exposing them to a whole new world. Live comedy is a whole different ballgame.”
Another whole different ballgame at Art Around Adams is Super Awesome Showdown. The self-described “intergalactic performance art wrestling” troupe stages a multimedia show that resembles a classic morality play, retold with a lucha libre spin.
“At the root of everything, it is a good guy versus bad guy show, superheroes versus villains, wrestling with aerial techniques — the ‘dance,’ as we call it,” explained Kevin Burton, a member of the group and a South Park resident. “We added in a DJ who plays music, a lot of lights, and the final element is the videos. Professional wrestling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. We’re changing an old-school style into more modern scenes, particularly the lights, sounds and video work. We make it very family friendly, everything’s very safe and over the top. My 92-year-old grandmother comes to the shows.”
Super Awesome Showdown’s troupe of about 15 wrestlers and staff will perform their new science fiction storyline — the villain is a computer virus — throughout the day at the Unity Mason Lodge parking lot, 3366 Adams Ave.
In contrast to the multimedia dazzle of death-defying superheroes, there will be about 200 slightly more subdued visual artists exhibiting along the avenue, in just about every imaginable medium. One of the artists is Aaron Cathcart, who has been doing woodworking for 12 years, first inspired by an antique.
“I had a neighbor who had an old [figurehead] from a ship, two or three hundred years old,” Cathcart said. “I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I was a more traditional artist before. I painted on canvas. I’m kind of a tinker, like my dad. He was an artist.”
Cathcart’s original aesthetic inspiration has now evolved into the creation of finely-crafted wood artwork, often intricately carved — crossbows, sculpture, millwork, furniture and more. “It’s a labor of love. I really enjoy the craft, making something out of nothing. I’m working on an isolation chair made from reclaimed pallets for Art Around Adams. When you sit inside one of these egg chairs and you listen to music, there’s something very comforting and that’s the whole idea — to comfort you and take you back to the bliss of being a child.”
A Normal Heights resident, Cathcart recently returned to the neighborhood of his childhood: His grandmother’s house is across the street from where he now lives.
“I love the North Park-Normal Heights area because it’s eclectic,” he said. “It’s sort of like the cool part of town. Everyone’s sort of accepted there and a lot of artists live there. That’s what I like about it: It’s a melting pot.”
The public is invited to jump into that melting pot on June 4, perhaps to find some bliss at Art Around Adams.
—Kit-Bacon Gressitt writes commentary and essays on her blog, “Excuse Me, I’m Writing,” and has been published by The Missing Slate, Ms. Magazine blog and Trivia: Voice of Feminism, among others. She formerly wrote for the North County Times. She also hosts Fallbrook’s monthly Writers Read authors series and open mic, and can be reached at email@example.com.