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It's a Festival of Color and Art

LANCASTER - A splash of color was given to Lancaster Boulevard this week as street artists from as far as Australia, local artists and even R. Rex Parris High School students gathered to vivify blank walls.

A dozen murals on the exteriors of buildings along Lancaster Boulevard and nearby streets will be finished during a festival from 4 to 8 p.m. today.

"It's a cool little town; it really is," said Texas resident Heath Speakman, who owns SprATX, a group that helps connect street artists with projects, and who was involved in organizing the mural effort. "I haven't been in a small town since I was a kid. Everywhere else has been big city and then I see this and it reminds me of growing up. It's really nice; people are super cool."

The goal is to not only beautify buildings, but to build connections and to help youngsters who may be using graffiti as an outlet to use their skills in a more positive way, Speakman said.

"One of the oldest graffiti writers out of Austin ... he will tell all the kids that come up to him, 'Man, don't go write on people's buildings' and stuff like that. That's not what's it's about. Find a company or a business that will say 'Hey, here's a wall, you can do this wall in a nice way,'" he said.

"We just collect groups of people that are like-minded that want to do it in a manner that helps them in their art career. It's a big portfolio for a lot of these artists," he said. That's why local and international artists are participating.

"Internationals inspire the locals to keep it in that mind-set that 'you are doing this to further your career,' don't do it just to deface," he said.

Among the international artists is David Hooke, whose professional name is MEGGS. He flew in from Australia and on Friday was painting an antelope skull and poppies on a wall north of Lancaster Boulevard.

Hooke said the painting signified the depletion of resources as well as the antelope for which the Antelope Valley was named.

"The antelope it was named after, was actually hunted to almost the point of extinction. That kind of inspired me to paint something where it's along the lines of ... an environmentalist undertone, nature references, nature versus man," he said.

The mural painting is named "POW! WOW! Antelope Valley," which comes from an annual Hawaiian street art festival called POW! WOW! - whose name is inspired by comic book art - and which has prompted similar art festivals around the world.

"I visited POW! WOW! in Hawaii at the original site in Kaka' ako and it has a similar vibe to what we are trying to do here in Lancaster and that's educate young people through art and music," Lancaster Museum of Art and History curator Andi Campognone said Friday. "I think one of the important things that we have to remember about this is this is a community event. One hundred percent of the expense on this project came from the community."

Approximately $12,000 was spent on the murals through the Lancaster Museum and Public Art Foundation, which was a bargain compared to what could normally have been spent, she said. But local businesses and residents have played an important part in making the event possible, Campognone said.

"In addition to sponsoring a wall by actually paying for expenses, they have been feeding our artists for free," she said. "There was paint that ran out so someone took the artist to Home Depot and bought all the paint. We were surprised because we thought we raised enough money to cover the projects, which we did. The BLVD Association paid our artists a stipend. Destination Lancaster took care of all of their hotel rooms, so we thought 'OK we have that all covered,' but then the unforeseen pops up and the community just stepped up like that."

Lancaster City Manager Mark Bozigian said he commended everyone who came together to make the event possible and was happy to see people express their creativity.

"Andi has done an amazing job, her and her team. It's a team effort, they have done an amazing job elevating the arts in the Antelope Valley," Bozigian said.

R. Rex Parris High School teacher and artist Kris Holladay brought students to help paint a mural of Joshua trees on a wall of the Aven's furniture store in the 44800 block of 10th Street West.

"We got a crew to scrub the wall with just the right soap. Then we had a parent volunteer spray the entire wall with a sky blue, which helped us prep," Holladay said. "When it was time to do the mural, it's like every day, the Lord provided little miracles along the way. The student's parent sprayed the wall, he didn't charge us any money, just a gift."

Santa Ana resident Julio Hernandez said he and friends Crisselle Mendiola and Megan Khounani - who have volunteered at the POW! WOW! Long Beach event - came to Lancaster to help artists with anything they might need.

"The community is very different obviously in downtown Long Beach. It's really laid back here but at the same time everyone is doing something. You see people active, it's an active community. It's very tranquil," Hernandez said.

Today's festival - called "POW! WOW! Block Party!" - at Lancaster Boulevard and Ehrlich (Elm) Avenue will include performances by local bands Vultures of Vinyl, How Scandinavian, DROSS and Devil McCoy, as well as a car show of American-made vehicles and refreshments from Zodiac Grill Food Truck and BEX Beer Garden.

At the same time, the Lancaster Museum of Art and History's newest show, called "Made in America" opens with a public reception from 4 to 8 p.m. today. It runs through Oct. 30.

The exhibit emphasizes common themes of American innovation and culture, including baseball and sports memorabilia, quilting, sweet treats, Native American tradition, engineering and popular media in installations, photography, painting and mixed media.

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