The Santa Monica Airport was packed with pedestrians on March 28, and they were not anxiously awaiting take-off. The crowds were there to see the work of more than 60 local artists showcased at the 3rd annual Santa Monica Airport Art Walk. Sponsored by the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division and the Santa Monica Airport, the art walk was an afternoon affair that found dozens of gallery doors open at no cost to the public. Artists displayed at the event included Fielden Harper, Jodi Fuchs, Michelle Oppenheimer, and Greg Gioiosa. Harper has been working in Santa Monica for two decades, chronicling the city one building at a time. “I am very affected by the environment and I’m architecturally oriented, so I have pretty much painted a good portion of the city of Santa Monica,” Harper said. “So many things are in the process of being re-modeled or torn down, and my work has become a sort of unofficial documentation of the city. I paint things and they may disappear later on.”For the past 19 years, Harper has taught art history at St. Matthew’s Parish School in Pacific Palisades. Some of her art work is inspired by things she witnesses in the classroom. “I noticed the students did not want to use their pencils anymore after the pencils got worn down, so I built these little houses out of those discarded pencils,” Harper said. “I like to take things that no longer have a life and recycle them into works of art.”As for her Santa Monica-inspired work, Harper said she favors her paintings of life guard stations and a piece inspired by the Santa Monica Pier. Harper’s wasn’t the only studio where crowds gathered to hear neighborhood artists discuss their creations. All along Airport Avenue, between Bundy Drive and 23rd Street, there was a hum of activity in artistic hot spots such as the Santa Monica Art Studios complex, the Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Arena One Gallery, and the Santa Monica College (SMC) Ceramic Studios and Art Mentor Program. Karen Bathker, a student at SMC, spent the day meticulously weaving crochet thread through metal eye screws mounted on wood.“When I was younger, I used to do these drawings where I would make dots around the edge of the paper, then make dots in the middle and connect them all,” Bathker said. “I wanted to do that without using paper, so I decided to use string to connect the dots.”As a member of the SMC Art Mentor Program, Bathker meets with fellow students and professional artists at the airport art space every Saturday. “It’s a great program,” she said. “We are mentored by working artists and we collaborate with each other.”New this year was Arena One Gallery’s South Asian American Art Festival, which included more than 120 dynamic artworks including photographs, installations, sculpture and video by 25 artists. An exhibit titled “Dialogue in Art” enables the artists native to the troubled region of south Asia to express themselves. Another artist along the snaking path of galleries, Trine Wejp-Olsen, showcased her large-scale paintings and sculptures, many of which are based in other-worldly concepts. “My work is very much about myth, fairy tales, imagination and other worlds,” Wejp-Olsen said. “These other worlds are also very much in our every day lives, running parallel to what we normally see. It’s just a matter of looking.” If you thought the Santa Monica Airport was all about take-offs and landings, try visiting the scores of artists who stay grounded near the tarmac to make Santa Monica a prettier place. For more information about the art scene in the vicinity of the Santa Monica Airport, call 310.458.8350.
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