Arts Vendors will be back on the 2nd St promenade for the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk. Credit: Photo courtesy of Matty Slice

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After being forced to shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk will be returning once more as an in-person event on Saturday. 

On the first Saturday of every month, the artwalk welcomes art, local vendors, performances and festivities to downtown Santa Ana. The artwalk has been around since 1999, bringing in thousands of locals and others in the area to soak up the surrounding galleries, art centers and businesses. 

“​​The artwalk to (the community) is the heartbeat of downtown and so they really want to see our walk return and give energy and love to the crowd that embraces it,” said Ryan Smolar, organizer of the monthly artwalk for the past eight years. 

The center of the artwalk will be 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana (the Grand Central Art Center). The event is free to attend and takes place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

Although the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk has not been held in-person since last year, organizers worked to bring art to the community in an online format. The online artwalk took place on the first Saturday of every month over Facebook Live and tried to re-create that creative space for artists, art enthusiasts and locals to tune into. 

“Art, and I’m sorry if it sounds cliché but, not only does it heal and (bring) people together, but it’s just been nice to see, at least for me, to see the community come together and make something beautiful,” said Maria Gonzalez, the artwalk’s social media engager. 

But when downsizing to a smaller screen, it’s difficult to bring the same excitement and engagement from the in-person artwalks to a virtual platform. With everything from school to work switching to online, Zoom fatigue followed closely behind, Gonzalez said. 

As the pandemic kept many at home, funds to continue producing the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk, once it was safe to do so, dwindled. The artwalk receives most of its funding through parking revenue and downtown’s self-assessed business tax. With parking down at least 75%, there wasn’t enough money in the city’s budget to produce the artwalk at the same scale as pre-pandemic, Smolar said.  

But with outreach from the community about supporting the artwalk through funding and participation, the artwalk will be making its return. Although the artwalk will not operate from the same budget as it did previous years, it’s the community’s involvement that helped to pick the artwalk back up.  

“It feels a little bit like we’re restarting,” Smolar said. “But there’s so much energy behind it, that, you know, the community wants to come right back. And so what’s cool is I think everybody who wants to do something is stepping up and saying how they want to participate and is finding a way to do that.” 

With so many uncertainties and stress filling the lives of people for the past year, it’s necessary for the community to come together and take a break, said Maricela Vela, coordinator of “Dancing in the Streets.”

“We’re waiting to have life back in downtown,” Vela said. “The people need something to distract them from what’s going on around us. Everyone likes dance. Dancing is a universal language. It helps alleviate people from their problems and have fun.” 

The Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk will be following county guidelines for COVID-19 health and safety as well as advising unvaccinated attendees to wear a mask.

More information about activities and events being held at artwalk can be found on its website

August’s Artwalk Activities Include:

  • “The Birds,” a mural by local high school and Fullerton university students, can be viewed in the alley behind Fourth Street between Bush and Main Streets. The mural took six months to create and represents the diversity as it showcases the different cultures found in Santa Ana. Each bird is assigned to one person depicting where the person’s family originates from. The Orange County Transportation Authority helped to sponser the mural team through the Santa Ana Business Council. The mural was coordinated by local Santa Ana artist Moises Camacho.
“The Birds” mural can be found in the alley behind Fourth Street between Bush and Main Streets.
  • The first “Chicano Artists & Friends Artshow” will hold its opening reception. According to the website, it is “an art exhibit consisting of over 30 artists (young, old, professional and beginners, male and female) who are using their art to exhibit a celebration of education and unity through art.” It is on display in the SAC Arts Gallery in the Santora Arts Building from Aug. 7 through Oct. 2. 
  • “Transformative Actions,” COVID-19 art installations located at the intersections of 4th Street and Spurgeon Street, 4th Street and Bush Street, and 4th Street and Broadway. The installations will be storefront art displays created by local artists with help from the governor’s office and Peer Mental Wellness, a new mental health arts facility located in downtown Santa Ana. 
  • “Dancing in the Streets” will be held in Calle Cuatro Plaza where attendees can attend free salsa dancing lessons or check out local art vendors in the area. 
  • An open piano on The Frida Cinema patio.

Kristina Garcia is a writing fellow for Voice of OC Arts & Culture. She can be reached at kristinamgarcia6@gmail.com.

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