By Tyrese Blue
Riverside’s monthly Life Arts Center Artwalk made its return to downtown after a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19.
The building itself was originally built in 1909 and was initially a YMCA. It was designed in the style of Italian Renaissance architecture and is now considered a historic site.
Normally, there would also be booths and vendors outside the building, with many more people in attendance. It finally reopened May 7 in a downsized manner to abide by pandemic safety regulations.
While the artwalk was not as packed as it might have been in the past, vendors and artists remained open and welcoming, eager to share their work with attendees.
The charm and aesthetics of the original architecture, while still having many modern updates, is enjoyable when walking through the rooms and hallways of the historic building.
Artists Ghost Serrano and Sabrina Vicario had their artwork spread out on their table, most of it inducing a psychedelic experience.
“I create psychedelic-inspired paintings,” Ghost said. “What I can paint on paper, I just do it. So it flows, whatever I’m doing.”
Poly High School student Sophia Feinberg, 17, an intriguing teenager with the style and personality of a hippie,also displayed her hand-crafted work at the artwalk. The multi-talented theater student creates and sells jewelry.
“One-of-a-kind crystals and glass beads,” she said. “I like to spread positivity and feelings through my art.”
Alex Howard, an engaging artist and musician with a cool outlook on life, said he often gives away free artwork to children to inspire them.
Inspiring others is one of the reasons he became an artist.
“It’s planting seeds,” he said. “You can change the flow of the river from the upstream — shift the direction.”
DJ Daniel Aguayo, who goes by his stage name “Mvsagua,” played enjoyable music throughout the night. Despite not being a visual or physical art vendor,his music added to the artistic feel of the event.
“I create R&B, disco and that makes people want to move,” he said. “I mostly produce. I really like house parties like small gigs and backyard shows.”
Marie Strassenurg Reeder, a professional piano teacher who performed a piece that evening, coordinated the event. She noted the changes made in order to maintain safety during the artwalk’s return.“We just have to be mindful of placement,” she said. “I hate limitations, but I think limitations are invitations to grow.”
Reeder said change is on the horizon, though.“I can guarantee it,” she said. “One thing the pandemic has done is let the public know how essential arts really are. So events like this make people crave for it more than they ever did.”
Reeder described the sense of community and openness the facility provides to all artists in need of rooms to rent and start their own businesses.
“They have a soft spot for upcoming career people,” she said. “I started my corporation here. I would not have my own business if not for this building because this was the only building that was willing to rent to a female start-up music teacher.”Up-and-coming artists wanting to display and sell their work at the monthly event can contact the Life and Arts Center through at firstname.lastname@example.org.