Artists tell their stories through creations at Padua Hills Art Fiesta

Giana Froio
Staff Writer

The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art hosted the 19th Annual Padua Hills Art Fiesta on Sunday at the Padua Hills Theater in Claremont.

The event showcased the work of 34 artists, offering a diverse array of creations including ceramics, jewelry, weaving and more. Visitors made their way up the path framed by artist stations, leading to the patio adorned with the majority of the tables. 

“Everything you create is something from your soul and your heart,”artist Kathleen McCall said. “Every piece of art you create is part of you,” McCall has participated in the Padua Hills Art Fiesta for the last 15 years in the same spot, nestled beneath the shade of the olive trees.

McCall’s first work of art was done on her grandparents’ toilet seat, she said. As a young girl, McCall decided to skip her nap and create a painting to show her grandmother how much she loved her. Drawing two stick figures surrounded by hearts in lipstick and nail polish, McCall was satisfied with her work and went to take her nap. 

Today McCall has turned away from toilet seats and moved on to something smaller, earrings. Her art is characterized by vivid colors and unconventional forms. One particular design features geometric shapes with distinctive patterns on their surfaces. A vibrant purple boomerang figure embellished with lavender dots and teal, navy, pink and green shapes, each with its own unique pattern. These pieces are cut and transformed into lightweight, detailed earrings. Every pair is one-of-a-kind and crafted by hand.

Many artists encouraged people to feel and interact with the artwork. They gathered around tables, appreciating the skill and detail in each piece. Conversations about what inspired the art were shared, and admirers openly expressed their love for certain works. Many guests decided to take pieces home with them.

“Art has been a way to express myself when I haven’t had the words to say so,” Desiree Cabrera, a sophomore at Mt. San Antonio College and artist apprentice to Kris Erikson, said. 

She connected with Erikson while working on a paper for her ceramics class. As an apprentice, Cabrera does glazing and throwing test tiles since she is still learning. 

“Let go of your expectations and just explore in the open,” Erickson said.

Erickson started working with clay when she was twelve. After moving from Connecticut to the Chicago suburbs, she found difficulty relating to her classmates. A teacher suggested she may find community in art leading her to a pottery class at a local community space. She has been doing ceramics ever since.  

Erikson’s pottery plays with natural tones and texture. The mid-century inspired work is crafted in a unique design. One pot, for example, showcases a balanced shape, featuring a singular circle on top and a much larger one below. White drops of glaze were applied over the greater part of the vase, creating a sporadic pattern that resembles soap bubbles, all while allowing the natural beauty of the clay beneath to shine through.

Inside the theater drink tickets were sold for fine wine and craft beer. La Merendero Mexican restaurant sold tacos, burritos, quesadillas and tamales. Guests found seats at tables dressed in vibrant red tablecloths, eating and enjoying the fresh jicama. 

Bands performed in hourly shifts throughout the event. On the balcony overlooking the foothills, several artists conducted live demonstrations, while arts and crafts stations for the kids were situated beside them.

“Art means you are able to connect to yourself in another form,” artist Ruthellyn Whittington said. 

Whittington is a University of La Verne alumna, completing her master’s degrees in art education and counseling in the 1990s. She worked as a high school art teacher and school counselor for 38 years before retiring in 2018.

Her root of artistic inspiration traces back to her mother who was a seamstress. During her college years, her painting instructor embarked on annual spring break trips to the Navajo and Mojave reservations, where she expanded her knowledge of weaving techniques. 

Whittington uses woven fibers to create depictions of natural landscapes. One piece, for example, is encased within a wooden frame reminiscent of an embroidery hoop. Tight stitches form a backdrop, transitioning from various shades of brown to blue to create the ground and the sky. Horizontal rows of neatly stacked stitches create tree trunks, while the treetops are crafted using soft, wool-like fibers, lending a soft and ethereal quality. Pastel blue fibers delicately form billowing clouds above the treetops.

The crowd fluctuated in size throughout the event, with noticeable increases towards the start of each hour. The crowds remained for approximately 45 minutes before dispersing. As event-goers hopped on the shuttle to return to the remote parking area, a fresh wave of enthusiasts occupied the now-empty spaces, continuing the cycle.

Giana Froio can be reached at giana.froio@laverne.edu.

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