20th Annual ArtCar Fest

The ArtCar Fest will celebrate its 20th year in the Bay Area from October 7th through 9th in downtown Oakland. The cars will line up along 23rd Street in the city’s Uptown neighborhood on Friday night, coinciding with the Oakland First Friday celebrations. Saturday marks the ArtCar Fest Bash at Oakland’s NIMBY DIY art space, including bands, cabaret acts, spoken-word artists, documentary films, and the notorious ArtCar Fest Fashion Show. (The party promises to continue through the wee hours of Sunday morning.)

The ArtCar Fest has a bonafide Santa Cruz pedigree. Co-founder Harrod Blank earned his filmmaking degree from UCSC in 1986, and has strong ties to the city. In 2007, Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art and History presented the History of the Decorated Car: Things That Roll Series exhibition. In writing several articles about the exhibition and festival (one of which appears in Going Coastal), I became transfixed by the phenomenon of the car as mobile art object. “Remember, these sculptures have to look good parked, and need to be able to go 60 miles per hour without anything falling off,” ArtCar Fest co-founder Philo Northrup explained to me in an interview. “Most artists aren’t up to this challenge, so we’re an elite bunch.”

The ArtCar Fest made its sole Santa Cruz appearance (thus far) in 2007, and it’s one of my very favorite memories of the city. Pacific Avenue dazzled with crowd-pleasing vehicles including Richard Carter and John Schroeter’s “Sashimi Tabernacle Choir,” and environmentally-friendly cars such as “For The Birds” by Marilyn Dreampeace and Shalom Compost. Abbott Square displayed that afternoon’s rendition of the ArtCar Fest Fashion Show, featuring one woman’s homage to her native Canada (a hockey stick was her scepter!), and a guy kitted out in full Evel Knievel finery. I really hope that Northrup and Blank bring the Fest back to Santa Cruz sometime soon, because it has perfect synergy with the city’s personality. In the meantime, here’s a look back before the event heads to Oakland:

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