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Lathrop art show offers plenty of young talent

Go see what all the poltical fuss was over at city hall

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POSTED May 1, 2009 2:35 a.m.
Art and politics are like oil and water. They don’t really go together. They should not go together. Unlike the more hard-edged and corroded nitty-gritty world of politics, art is supposed to be something beautiful, refreshing and uplifting - a haven for the soul to find comfort from everything that’s ugly and discordant in the harsh realities of life.

But that’s the idealistic school of thought. From time immemorial, somehow the two have managed to collide in a cacophony of controversies, and with the poor artist sadly caught in between.

Unfortunately, that was the ugly scenario played out on last Friday in the supposed-to-be hallowed Council Chambers at Lathrop City Hall where the popular annual Mayor’s Art Purchase Award Show and Sale was being prepared.

Entries were accepted on Friday and Saturday, with the judging taking place the afternoon of the second day. Without rehashing all the details, which have been recounted in the story that ran in Monday’s Manteca Bulletin, the verbal and physical altercation that happened inside the Council Chambers ended up with Tom Sayles, Ron Rhodes, and Dan Mac Neilage receiving infraction citations from the police. Sayles is the husband of Mayor Kristy Sayles. Rhodes is the husband of former mayor Gloryanna Rhodes. Mac Neilage is a city Planning Commissioner. According to some of the people we talked to who witnessed the incident but did not hear everything that was said by the parties involved, the mayor and former mayor were not around at the time.

The good news here, if one may call it that, is no one got hurt. And from the words of the people who were there, the altercation was not a long and drawn-out session. One witness told me that after the police officers left and Sayles went back inside the council chambers still “really, really mad,” art committee member Tony Martin went up to him and said in his usual calm and soft voice, “Let’s not have any more of this. We are doing an art show.” At that, the witness said Sayles turned around and did not come back for the rest of the day and on Saturday, the second day for accepting entries to the show.

The irony here is very striking though. Isn’t City Hall supposed to be a sanctuary where citizens can go to resolve in a peaceful and civilized manner whatever differences they may have, either with a pesky neighbor or with some city official/s that they may be having problems with?

Incident casts a pall over positive event
Perhaps, some will say the unfortunate police incident has cast a pall over an event that has been one of Lathrop’s biggest positive image builders, the annual Mayor’s Art Purchase Award Show and Sale which is now in its 16th year. But what better way to demonstrate the healing and uplifting power of the arts than to focus on what this community-building effort has accomplished through the years?

In its own quiet way, this art show and sale has put Lathrop on the Central Valley map as far as artists are concerned. It has become one of the most popular and sought-after juried shows for artists of all disciplines.

Entries have come from as far away as Jackson, Mariposa near Yosemite, Sacramento, and from various communities in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties. I remember a few in the past who came from areas in the Bay Area.

The entries usually run the gamut, from wood and metal sculptures of all sizes and styles from the highly realistic to the abstract, to oils, watercolors, acrylics, pen and ink, mixed media and photography.

Judges who do the honors every year are themselves noted artists of national and international caliber. Some of them have been art instructors and professors at San Joaquin Delta College, University of the Pacific and the California State University at Stanislaus. So to be selected for one of the main-category awards is a great honor indeed for the artists in a way that is far more valuable than the monetary prize that goes with the recognition ribbon. I know the feeling because I’ve been fortunate enough in recent years to capture a few of those awards.

Speaking of awards, the Lathrop show is unique in that in addition to the judge’s picks, various local businesses and individuals in the community who support the artists and the arts also get to give Sponsor Awards. They donate a monetary prize and then select the art work that they want to sponsor. This year, there are nearly  30 of these Sponsor Awards, which means there will be several artists who will be going home with a prize or ribbon, maybe even two or three as has happened before.

The biggest prize, of course, not only for the $500 purse that goes with it but for the prestige it bestows upon the lucky artist, is the Mayor’s Purchase Award which is the equivalent of Best of Show. The art work selected by the mayor - hence the name of the award -- will become part of the city’s permanent art collection.

One of Lathrop’s best kept secrets
This art collection is on display in the Joyce Gatto Gallery on the north entrance to City Hall. The gallery is open during regular hours for the public to view the paintings on display. Among those hanging in the gallery is an oil painting by Manteca artist Tom Olson who was one of the early winners of the Mayor’s Award.

The art gallery is, perhaps, one of Lathrop’s best-kept secrets because it hardly sees any visitors’ traffic. But those who plan to view the latest crop of Mayor’s Art Purchase Show entries can shoot two birds with one stone by viewing the works of previous winners in the gallery as well.

“We have some beautiful art pieces and we have a lot of new artists this year,” said Gatto who, along with a handful of dedicated community volunteers and lovers of the arts, laid the groundwork for this annual art competition 16 years ago.

She noted that many of the “older artists who used to come from Sutter, Mariposa and Jackson” have not been able to participate for various reasons such as illness. Still, they received 142 entries this year with the new and younger artists making up a good percentage of the number of works entered.
“We got some excellent work from these young ones,” Gatto said.

The art show is located in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive at Mossdale Landing, and will be open to the public through Friday, May 8, during regular business hours. While you’re there, don’t forget to vote for your favorite peace before you leave. The art piece receiving the highest number of viewers’ votes will get the People’s Choice Award and a $100 prize. A Students’ Choice Award will be given to the entry that will get the highest vote from students who will be viewing the show.

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