Friday nights come alive with Art After Dark

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015


Art After Dark Sheds light on downtown San Luis Obispo’s creativity

The guitar is strumming in the background in perfect unison with the sounds of the singing duo, a local winery is pouring award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and a crowd is gathering in the courtyard behind the busy street outside. A featured artist is welcoming visitors, shoppers are enjoying longer store hours and friends are discussing where to meet for dinner later in the night.
It’s the first Friday of the month and San Luis Obispo is brimming with the colorful sights and sounds of downtown’s Art After Dark. This popular, free venue typically offers close to 30 galleries and non-traditional art venues – restaurants, boutiques, jewelry stores, salons – that enthusiastically host and spotlight both well-established and emerging local artists. Performing arts, poetry readings and other creative venues are welcomed in addition to visual arts.
“Now in its 17th year, some of the original business and gallery owners are still participating on a regular basis,” explains Jenna Hartzell, Executive Director of ARTS Obispo. “It’s grown a great deal especially during the past five years. The San Luis Obispo Downtown Association has really helped promote it by keeping it safe and a great environment overall.”

Businesses support local artists

The Growing Grounds Downtown store, located across from SLO Mission on Chorro Street, is filled with patrons on those Friday nights.“Art After Dark has been great for us. We are a small non-profit and don’t have money to spend on advertising. We appreciate that we can be a part of this city-wide art event and attract a large number of people who might never have walked into the store. Once they are here we can tell them about our parent organization, Transitions-Mental Health Association, and our mission. They can see for themselves the interesting gifts and healthy plants that we offer. They have a good time at the event and they usually come back to support us – it’s wonderful!”
Humankind Fair Trade Non-Profit Retail Store, another popular downtown location, enjoys the experience, as well. “We love promoting local artists and participating in the art community through Art After Dark. Our store carries handmade artisan crafts from around the world, and bringing in local artists helps us connect with the local artisan community in addition to the global artisan community. Also, Art After Dark brings in many new people through our doors, introducing them to our shop for the first time. Art After Dark is always fun, energetic, and seems to be one of those events that engages our entire town.”
Art After Dark just might inspire you to further develop your own creative endeavors with its vast diversity including: paintings, multi-media collages, wood and stone sculptures, pottery, knitted wares, photography and much more.

Artists inspire & delight

Local artist Janet Allenspach explains what Art After Dark means to her from an artist’s perspective. “The excitement of a show during Art After Dark feels like a huge party where my art is the guest. Certainly, it is wonderful for me to see old friends, meet new ones, and hear positive comments about my creations, but it is nice to get my paintings out of their hidden sanctuary of my house and studio, out into the public. I always hope my art inspires and delights, and it is very fulfilling for me to have feedback that lets me know I am succeeding in my wishes.”

“It’s a great economic stimulator, it’s a great way to bring people and the community together, including our college students, and people have grown to count on it as part of their life,” further adds Jenna. “The downtown businesses understand why using the arts is important here and this is a reciprocal event. They support one another and because of this, the entire local business community thrives.”

Experience Art After Dark in Downtown San Luis Obispo on the first Friday of each month (unless it falls on a holiday) from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, contact ARTS Obispo, the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council and the local partner of the California Arts Council, at or (805) 544-9251 for more information

-Leslie Jones

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