San Luis Obispo

Around the Counties: A Venture into the Central Coast with Catherine Trujillo

Bird Watching At Morro Rock.jpg

Artbound columnist Catherine Trujillo takes some time to discuss what she loves about San Luis Obispo County. An employee of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the artist also shares the story and some images of a completed project she took on for Banned Book Week at Kennedy Library, taking place now. Lastly, Trujillo recommends that you attend Passport to the Arts this weekend, a family event she helped organize.

What makes San Luis Obispo County so attractive?

The attraction to San Luis Obispo is the unfettered coastline and the stewards who dedicate their lives to preserving it. I love the arts in this county. The cultural history is really important to me too. My own personal interest is to try to find underrepresented communities that make up San Luis Obispo County. I try to work with artists or historians that are taking those communities to the forefront, not necessarily in museums or galleries but maybe through a traveling exhibit or through a cultural event that's open to everyone. One community that I've connected with is the Latino community. There's a lot of different regions of Mexico that are represented in our county and a lot of new immigrants to our county but they're also artists and they have such a rich history. Working with those populations to share their culture is something I really value. And it is attractive, it's just not necessarily in the forefront of when people think about culture for the county.

Catherine Trujillo with cousins, circa 1977.

What are some of your favorite art venues in San Luis Obispo County? Why do you particularly enjoy them?

My favorite venue for art are the small-town galleries.

  • Steynberg Gallery provides an artistic environment for music, art and conversation. The gallery is a mix of coffee-shop-wine-bar-meets-literary salon. It is a favorite hangout for locals with a penchant for art and I what I enjoy most is dropping in and seeing one of my favorite local artists sipping coffee and a chance to sit and chat with them. I love [Peter] Steynberg he is just a gem for the county. We used to hold Pechakucha Night, Japanese for the sound of chit chat, [there.] It's this fast paced slide show that myself and some others devised to give an opportunity for people to present their work, or their art and it's 20 images, 20 seconds each and they don't stop. Steynberg graciously hosted that event for many years until we outgrew the venue.
  • The Sanitarium traditionally is a bed-and-breakfast but it's a unique, kind of gallery/ meeting place for a lot of artists in the county. Suzi Bliss, the owner, is an amazing artist. It was devised with the rooms, each had a different artist that created that space. I was one of the artists that helped create one space but it's a beautiful mix of Victorian architecture, mixed with modern architecture, mixed with modern artists of the county. That's a wonderful hangout. You can just drop in, enjoy the art, kind of take in all of the events they have there. It's a beautiful space.

'Library' project installed at The Sanitarium, encourages community members to borrow a book to read in the park. 2009. | Photo: Reading in Public/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Can you tell us about a project you're working on outside of Artbound?

I just finished an altered book project for Kennedy Library's Banned Book Week. The American Library Association comes out with this list of commonly banned books and the library is exploring that concept and trying to bring attention around it and say that we're a place that has that intellectual freedom of choice to read. There was a call to recreate a banned book cover. I took a damaged copy of "The Catcher in the Rye" and just interpreted it. The research I did was that the book was banned because of the use of the F-word. So, I actually found that page, tore it out and took a zipper, showing that there's hidden meaning in that banned book, of that word being called out on but really the book is about so much more than just this, it's a intellectual and cultural gem in the literary world.

Altered Book, 'The Catcher in the Rye.' | Photo: Catherine Trujillo.

Altered Book, 'The Catcher in the Rye.' | Photo: Catherine Trujillo.

There is a large contingent of book artists in the community, Melinda Forbes, Julie Frankel, and Meryl Perlman, are three such artists who have produced a body of work and projects that promote fine press work and handmade books as art. Melinda and Julie founded the Peace Library, which is comprised of the work of local artists, community members, and artists across California and beyond. The purpose is to provide a venue for dialogue [and] at the same time illustrating the passionate issues of war and peace throughout history. Additional books will be added to the exhibition as it travels as a reflection of the community it is visiting.

Do you see any art trends in San Luis Obispo County?

SLO County artists are responding to the economy with innovative ways to show and sell their art. Guerrilla art shows and independent art showings like the Phantom Project are an example, taking traditional methods of selling and showing works into unique settings and nontraditional spaces. Artist Neal Breton is another example of an artist who is shirking the status quo and creating opportunities to show his art in unusual and unexpected contexts.

Can you recommend an art event to the Artbound audience that's taking place this weekend?

Passport to the Arts is a new collaboration to promote the arts to SLO County's families. The event offers families a chance to experience the arts of our community while engaging in an interesting and fun-filled walk around the city. I'm part of this Central Coast arts education committee and its a consortium of different art educators and artists that want to bring opportunities to the K- 12 contingent here. With arts funding being cut so much, we were trying to devise an event that would bring the arts into the street, so to speak, so that children and families can experience those events together, and that would be no cost. It's piggybacking on the Plein Air Festival that the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is having this weekend.

Passport to the Arts. | Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Van Kleeck

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Top Image: Bird watching at Morro Rock. | Photo: Catherine Trujillo.

About the Author

Melody Soto is a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley.
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