27 Aug

San Jose Mercury News – Revived Tapestry Arts festival

written by No Comments posted in San Jose Mercury News - August 27, 2011

Revived Tapestry Arts festival aims for a grass-roots feel in History Park
By Sue McAllister
Posted: 08/27/2011 12:00:00 AM PDT

San Jose’s Tapestry Arts festival, a fixture of the Bay Area’s summer art fair circuit since the 1970s, was canceled in 2010 because the recession-battered nonprofit Tapestry Arts group couldn’t afford to put on the show. But with help from History San Jose, another nonprofit, Tapestry Arts is reviving its signature festival this Labor Day weekend in History Park, with some notable changes.

Once a downtown street fair prominently featuring art, the newly christened Taste of Tapestry is evolving to offer a smorgasbord of experiences set amid the park’s historic buildings, organizers say.

Veteran visitors this year will recognize the juried art show featuring jewelry artists, fabric artists, painters and more. But the two-day festival Saturday and next Sunday will also feature authors presenting their work, representatives from the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team, children’s entertainment, tours of a newly planted garden by members of the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County and even auditions for a televised talent show.

There will be a junior “Battle of the Bands,” karaoke and a dance contest featuring 1970s tunes from the Hollywood’s Attraction band. Plus, about 20 different nonprofit organizations will be on hand, says event director Joelle Maletis, who began working with Tapestry Arts in July.

“The more the word spreads, the more people are coming to me saying, ‘Well, we want to participate too,’ ” she says. “It’s got a personality of its own.”

Maletis, a former ballerina and teacher, attended her first Tapestry in Talent, as the show was once known, as an 8-year-old dance student. “I did a little routine from ‘The Pink Panther’ with a bubblegum-pink unitard and a feather-boa tail,” she recalls.

And it’s the homegrown, more-the-merrier spirit that she, Tapestry Arts executive director Michael Symons and History San Jose officials are trying to recapture by inviting diverse groups and individuals to participate at History Park.

“The event’s going to be a lot richer in a sense, a lot more unique, and it’s really going to mirror the mission of both of our organizations — which is highlighting the arts and culture of the valley,” says Alida Bray, president and CEO of History San Jose. “We’re sort of making it up, but I think it’s going to be really fun. It’s a very grass-roots kind of a festival.”

And as such, it’s welcoming many first-time exhibitors. Allan Spehar, for example, is a San Jose artist who works primarily with jade, some of which he dived for himself in the dangerous waters off Big Sur. A facilities manager for most of his career, and a longtime free-diver and spear-fisherman, he started working with jade about three years ago and launched his art business this year.

He’ll be selling both handmade jade beads and some ocean-worn display stones that collectors prize. “It’s worth a lot of money just because nature provided it that way,” he says.Another first-time participant, Kathryn Besser, author of a self-published book of parenting insights titled “Dirt & Sunshine,” will read from her work at 11 a.m. Saturday. She never attended the old version of Tapestry Arts, but says she’s excited about the prospect of the new version.

“Anything that brings kids into contact with art, music and dance is incredibly important,” says the Sunnyvale resident. “I’d love for this to take off again and get some traction.”

Tapestry Arts and History San Jose supporters would second that. Bray says, “We definitely want to make it a signature event at the park.”

She says History San Jose and Tapestry Arts, both struggling for funding in the recession, started talking early this year about the possibility of teaming up to do a festival and other events.

The goal is to raise money for educational programs that both History San Jose and Tapestry Arts provide to schoolchildren every year. Bray says the two groups are “being extraordinarily cautious” to make sure they at least break even on the event this year. “We don’t want to lose money, and we want to give the public a high-quality experience,” she says.

Maletis says many people have volunteered their time to make the festival come together. Even the traditional festival T-shirt was designed for free by a friend of hers, and silk-screened at a discount by a vendor who will bill Tapestry Arts after the fair is over.

Geri Comstock, a glass and jewelry artist who participated in the downtown Tapestry in Talent events from 1996 to 2005, says she is curious to see how the reincarnated festival turns out.

“I really don’t know what to expect,” she says. “I’m excited about the venue. That’s one of the reasons I signed up for it. I love History San Jose; it’s a good venue for a show.”

Contact Sue McAllister at 408-920-5833.

A Taste of Tapestry

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-next Sunday
Where: History Park (within Kelley Park), 1650 Senter Road, San Jose
History Park admission: $5 ages 13-64, free ages 12 and younger and ages 65 and older; parking $6
Information: www.tapestryartssanjose.com

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