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Best of 2018: Mighty Maker in Arts Scene! 


Strawberry Festival

Arroyo Grande Village

Peak season for strawberries is from April to June, and what better place to celebrate the sweet fruit than at Arroyo Grande's annual Strawberry Festival—this year on May 26 and 27. Executive Director of the Arroyo Grande Village Improvement Association Bob Lund said the festival started in 1983 as a small fresh strawberry event. "Today we have over 300 vendors, and our association sells about 400 flats of fresh strawberries during the two-day event," Lund said. The added perk to the festival is that admission, parking, and bus service to the event are all free. So enjoy the spring weekend with fresh fruits, entertainment, and family fun.


runner-up: Live Oak Festival


Kelsea Holder


Wedding photographer Kelsea Holder likes to approach her work from an old-school style. "I shoot primarily in film, so that sets me apart. With shooting film, I think there's just this quality of light and luminosity," she said. "I just approach everything with the best energy I can." Holder seeks to capture classic beauty with a unique allure and light-filled images with rich colors. Holder said she is always looking to improve her work, meet new people, and travel to new places.


runner-up: Brittany App


Colleen Gnos

Shell Beach

Colleen Gnos is an artist fueled by passion. "I kind of think that people respond to my diversity," Gnos said. "I move back and forth between music, the ocean, and surfing. They're all things I know pretty well." Currently, Gnos is painting a 20-by-19-foot mural of a farmer and a dog in pieces that will be displayed along the highway in Solano County. Locally, some of her musically inspired paintings will be on display at Puffers of Pismo through May 27.


runner-up: Lena Rushing


Studios on the Park

1130 Pine St., Paso Robles

A little more than 10 years ago, Paso Robles had nary an art gallery. That all changed when Studios on the Park came to town. "We're truly their art studio," Director Sasha Irving said. "We aspire to be a place that anyone can come express themselves creatively and take part in the artistic process. It's a place where anyone can come and connect with the arts." For more information on the gallery's ART Smart program for kids as well as art classes for people of all ages, visit


runner-up: Forever Stoked


Keith Duggan, Ink Dynasty

791 Dolliver St., Pismo Beach

So you're thinking about getting some ink? No, not the kind you get at Office Max—even though a small tattoo can start around the same price point as an ink jet cartridge. I'm talking about the permanent stuff. The kind that doesn't wash off at the end of the day and stings so good, as an ink-dipped needle repeatedly pokes into your skin. Well, Keith Duggan in Pismo Beach is your man. Duggan is booked two years out, so make that appointment sooner rather than later. "I love my clients," he said. "Everyone in this shop works really hard."


runner-up: Gary Ellsworth


Downtown Centre 7

888 Marsh St., SLO

When asked what was the key to this movie theater's recent success, CEO. Bruce Sanborn confirms my suspicions—it's a combination of factors. Reserved seating, the food selection, and beer and wine all work in unison to give moviegoers the best experience possible, Sanborn said. Along with these upgraded amenities—and, of course, those reclining seats—the theater strives to bring in "something for everyone," according to Sanborn, "from major first-run movies to indie art-house features as well as ballets, operas, and cult classic features, we have a wide variety of content under one roof."


runner-up: Palm Theatre


SLO Repertory Theatre

888 Morro St., SLO

After 70 years of staging theatrical productions, the former San Luis Obispo Little Theatre is wrapping up its first season as the SLO Repertory Theatre, a professional organization that pays its cast and crew for all main-stage productions. According to Kevin Harris, managing artistic director, season ticket sales are up by 20 percent. "The transition went really well for us," Harris said. "Actors that get paid are happier. There's a certain amount of commitment that goes with the paycheck." Already in the works, SLO Rep will continue to move forward with fundraising for a new and improved theater building.


runner-up: The Great American Melodrama


CORE Dance

882 Ricardo Court, SLO

Support, knowledge, and having fun are important at CORE Dance San Luis Obispo to help all its students shine! CORE was founded in 2010 but changed hands in 2018 to Alexa Von Der Hoff. In addition to ballet-based dance training, the studio offers performance opportunities for beginners through advanced levels starting at age 2 through adults. It offers six- to 10-week classes for those who aren't ready to commit to an entire year. "It is incredibly rewarding to work with today's youth," Von Der Hoff said. "We are firm believers that dance training is life training, and our students are learning valuable skills each and every day."


runner-up: Academy of Dance


Matt Cross

Matt Cross has a fresh take on music: He's just in the business to perform music locally. He's the guy you book at a wedding, a party, or even the guy at a bar playing your favorite tunes to make your night that much more special. He's not a singer-songwriter and doesn't have dreams to make it to the big-time stages. He just wants to continue to play music locally, to be supported by his community, and to bring life to a party with his fresh take on your favorite songs.


runner-up: Damon Castillo


Vina Robles Amphitheatre

3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles

"I think we're big enough to get national talent but intimate enough to provide the best concert experience," said Paul Leatherman, Vina Robles Amphitheatre's general manager. The outdoor setting is the perfect backdrop for your favorite entertainer and a glass of wine or a pint of beer. Musicians and comedians top the set list. Vina Robles offers season tickets front and center, luxury box seats, or a jardine table—but any seat is the best in the house. The picturesque venue is the place to be during the warm summer evenings surrounded by vineyards and the cool Paso breeze.


runner-up: SLO Brew

click to enlarge THURSDAY STROLL On most Thursday nights, the Best Community Event on the coast packs Higuera STREET. in Downtown San Luis Obispo with vendors, families, students, and—most importantly—local farmers. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • THURSDAY STROLL On most Thursday nights, the Best Community Event on the coast packs Higuera STREET. in Downtown San Luis Obispo with vendors, families, students, and—most importantly—local farmers.


Downtown SLO Farmers' Market

Higuera Street, SLO

Every Thursday between 6 and 9 p.m., a crowd of SLOcals and out-of-towners converges in Downtown SLO to check out fresh produce, cut flowers, delicious food, and live music at the farmers' market. The market began in the 1970s, when several downtown businesses began staying open past 5 p.m. on Thursdays to cater to people coming home from work. Eventually, restaurants began selling their food, and in the early 1980s, famers were invited to sell their produce. The market also hosts a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Alley on the last Thursday of every month.


runner-up: Concerts in the plaza

click to enlarge BEACH ART Local artist Colleen Gnos painted history onto two lifeguard towers in Avila Beach, and it must be exactly the public art that SLO County residents have always wanted. Yup, it’s the best. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • BEACH ART Local artist Colleen Gnos painted history onto two lifeguard towers in Avila Beach, and it must be exactly the public art that SLO County residents have always wanted. Yup, it’s the best.


Lifeguard towers by Colleen Gnos

Avila Beach

Capturing the feel of old Avila Beach was important to Colleen Gnos when she painted abalone divers, surfers, and the old Front Street onto two lifeguard towers on Avila Beach in 2017. "It gets people from many angles," Gnos said. "A lot of people remember old Avila. It reminds them of their childhood. And I think a lot of the locals like the historical representation. It's an unusual canvas." Be sure to look out for the two colorfully painted lifeguard towers the next time you're strolling on the beach or hanging out at the Avila Beach Friday farmers' market.


runner-up: CowParade SLO


(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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