In Southern California, it’s hard to find a fun and cultural activity that is free and entertaining for all ages. Luckily, for the past 10 years or so, many communities have taken advantage of the phenomenon of the “art walk” which brings hordes of people together for an art-minded cultural event that generally takes place every month in every major area. Orange County seems to be better at the art walk gatherings than most places, and has remained successful at activating areas and attracting artists, art lovers and groups of friends and families to their monthly events in every major art area. To take some of the guess work out of it for you, we’ve compiled an up-to-date rundown of the best art walks to visit in O.C. for you and your clan. You’re welcome!
#1) Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk
First Saturday of every month
The Downtown Santa Ana (DTSA) Artwalk takes place every first Saturday of the month from 6 – 10 p.m. in the Artists Village area of DTSA. There are over 25 different galleries in DTSA and on Artwalk nights, more than 40 vendors and a variety of live performances take over the promenade area. The main hub for the Artwalk is the promenade between Broadway and Main Street, between 1st and 3rd Street. Allstars at the DTSA Artwalk include Grand Central Art Center, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Fourth Element Gallery, Unlisted/As Issued, Gallery 6/67, Santa Ana College Gallery, Basement Projects, GCS Clothing & Gallery, The Frida Cinema and Photonic Playground. This event is by far the most attended and the most fun, but it is more of a street fair environment than a strictly art-based event. The art is vast and varied, but there is always something for every kind of art lover, and plenty to keep non-art lovers entertained as well. The street vendors supply a variety of amazing offerings like records, vintage digs, handmade jewelry, plants, candles and more; and, all the restaurants stay open later to accommodate the larger crowds and fun atmosphere.
#2) First Thursdays Art Walk in Laguna Beach
First Thursday of every month
Of the artistic epicenters in Southern California, Laguna Beach is a legendary destination. There are more than 100 art galleries in Laguna Beach, almost all of which participate in the monthly art walks. First Thursday Art Walk does in fact take place on the first Thursday of every month, and this is an event that, although spread out all over the city, is easy to navigate. The First Thursday Art Walk coordinating organization offers free shuttle service on the Laguna Beach trolley to every major gallery hub – North Laguna, South Laguna and Central Laguna Beach. They produce an Art Walk Gallery Guide so visitors know what to see and where to go, and the variety of art on display is always changing and never boring. Some of our favorite stops include the Laguna Art Museum, saltfineart, Cast of Crowns, Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Nat Geo Gallery, LGOCA, Elena Bulatova Fine Art, LCAD Gallery, Forest & Ocean Gallery, Peter Blake Gallery and The Red Fern Gallery – but there are so many more to see! The cafes and restaurants also try and stay open later on art walk nights so you can grab a bite to eat and a drink before or after you get cultured at art walk. With the beach by your side and great art in your eyes, this is a great and easy monthly event to experience.
#3) Downtown Fullerton Art Walk
First Friday of every month
If you’re in or around North County and looking for a fun and free cultural event to go to, Downtown Fullerton has a great art walk. Although a lot has changed for the Fullerton Art Walk in the last few months, this monthly event – every first Friday – is still a big draw for art and culture lovers. The hub of the Art Walk used to be at the Magoski Arts Colony, the main driving artistic energy of the entire city; however, the city officials seem to have it out for the Colony and have found a number of reasons to shut it down time and time again. This is currently one of those times. So, at the moment, the art walk is spread out all over the Downtown Fullerton area, centered mostly around Harbor Boulevard shops, galleries, coffee houses and the Fullerton Museum Center. Most stores and shops participate in some capacity, whether it be through rotating art exhibitions, street-front pop-up exhibitions, special arts and crafts offerings, open mic nights or simply longer hours. The artistic soul of this city is the Magoski Arts Colony and the owner, Michael Magoski, is determined to keep it that way. The current tribulations for the Colony are mere speed-bumps according to Downtown Fullerton Art Walk Founder Jesse La Tour. La Tour has kept art and culture alive in Fullerton for nearly 10 years with inspiring art exhibitions all over the city, running the Hibbleton Gallery since 2008, writing for local newspapers, supporting great local artists and businesses, teaching at the local Fullerton colleges, coordinating pop-up shows, founding the only independently owned zine shop in OC Bookmachine, coordinating Nerdy Thursdays (amazing and fun interactive nerd nights every week at Mulberry Street) and helping to facilitate other art and music events and activities in Fullerton. Although at the moment the Fullerton Art Walk is #3 on the list, it should be back up at #1 by next year.