Wide Open Walls Artists
The ARTners Collaborative
In a few short days, more than 50 artists will convene to the streets of Sacramento to literally paint the town in honor of the Wide Open Walls. Once known as the Sacramento Mural Festival, the 11-day event, now spearheaded by auctioneer and Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commissioner David Sobon and sponsored by Visit Sacramento, is set to give new life to 40 locations on and off the River City’s grid.
[Read: The Big Picture: Art For All]
Part Two of our Wide Open Walls coverage focuses on one of the local contributors of the festival, the ARTners Collaborative.
Based in the heart of Downtown Sacramento, the collective’s artists in residence — Markos Egure, Teresa Gutierrez, and Norm Ayles — are on a simple yet noble mission: to support local artists.
Learn more about the Collaborative and how they plan to bring a little bit of “HUMANITY” to this year’s mural festival.
The ARTners in Focus
On the second floor of an unassuming building just one block away from the Golden 1 Center, you’ll find one of Sacramento’s newest hub of creativity. Opened just in February 2017, the artist studio, gallery space, and yoga studio, the ARTners Collaborative is home to three intrepid entrepreneurial creatives — Markos Egure, Teresa Gutierrez, and Norm Ayles.
No stranger to the local muralist community, Egure is a dedicated muralist, creative painter, graphic artist and the man behind the successful Sacramento mural company, Wes Kos Images. Established in 1997, Wes Kos Images has produced numerous murals and creative paintings throughout the Sacramento region. You may also find paintings by Egure under his pseudonym, HippieCholo ARTE.
While born to an artist mother Ruth Gutierrez, Teresa, also known as “Lady Tee,” didn’t recognize her creative talents until high school (her initial pieces were homages to her favorite celebs). In her 20s, she delved into her creative side, taking art classes led by local portrait artist Bobbi Baldwin; however, married life put a temporary hold on her creative expression.
After a divorce and a chance meeting with Egure, she picked up her brushes again, focusing on painting vivid portraits and acrylic murals. She recently retired after 30 years with the State of California as Chief of the Centralized Applications Unit in the Center for Health Care Quality of the California Department of Public Health.
The tattoo artist and painter is the newest ARTner of the bunch. Meeting Egure at the WKi2 Studio Gallery, which snowballed into a creative awakening. Egure and Gutierrez mentored Ayles, giving him professional development skills — from prepping art shows, networking with other artists to debuting his work during Second Saturday. Landing a mural commission with Solfire Yoga — resulting in “TRANSCENDENCE,” a vibrant piece dedicated to the seven chakras — solidified his working relationship with Egure. (“We came to a deal where he would help me on the piece and I would help him on his WesKos Images murals.”)
After friendship, what connects the three is a shared vision to support local and up-and-coming artists. The group seeks to be partners to Sacramento’s art scene — hence, the Collaborative’s name, a conjunction of the words “art” and “partners.”
“Pursuing art is a constant grind. We have gone through the trenches and know a thing or two about how to survive this lifestyle. [ARTners Collaborative] wants to help motivate and support artists. We want to see artists make it, but put in the work,” says Egure.
“I know how it was starting off as an artist…the rejection, the criticism. I remember being scared to show my work in public. We especially want to offer opportunities for artists that are just entering the scene,” follows Gutierrez.
The Collaborative does just that by being more than co-working space. From mentoring, hosting monthly art shows, promoting artists to local media, to offering wellness courses (Vinyasa & Cosmic Yoga offered by Vincent Egure of Vinready Fitness and Compassionate Communication classes offered to all ages English/Spanish offered by Eddie and Gabriela Zacapa), the ARTners aim to “professionalize the dreamers.”
“There’s this misconception about artists…that we live in our heads, [that we] do nothing most of the time. That’s not true at all. We put in work…a lot of work. And to be a successful artist, you not only have to be creative but also business savvy. We aren’t building a clubhouse; we are building a movement, a state of mind that will uplift and bring out the best in everyone that walks through our door,” says Egure.
Spreading A Little HUMANITY
For Wide Open Walls, the ARTners will be bringing “humanity” to Improv Alley (I St and J Streets between 7th & 8th Streets), literally.
The word will be painted on the largest stretch of wall of the festival and on the 10-15 dumpsters that lean against it. Employing trompe l’oeil (3D visual illusion) techniques, the mural will be a timeline of Earth. Each letter in “humanity” will be filled with people, scenes, and symbols dedicated to significant moments in history…and shed light on our potential future.
“We’re getting a little political with this mural. The piece is a social commentary on the values we are losing,” says Gutierrez.
Note: The group also partnered with The California Endowment, so spectators may recognize some of the organization’s iconography and slogans within the work.
Due to the large stretch of wall they’ll need to cover over the 11-day period, the trio will get assistance from 10-15 other mural production artists. Staying true to the ARTners Collaborative ethos, some of the assistants will have little to no public art experience.
The Collaborative plans to work in the early mornings and evenings to avoid the heat on workdays, but will commit to full days on the weekend so the public can watch the action.
No Easy Task
Being a part of this year’s mural festival seemed like a pipe dream, especially after the Collaborative’s experience last year. Like many local artists, the ARTners Collaborative felt that the Sacramento Mural Festival was not inclusive to Sacramento’s experienced muralists.
“It was called the Sacramento Mural Festival, but only four of the artists were locals. It was strange that muralists with deep roots in our community were not at all considered. We were disappointed,” says Egure. (Egure himself has been making murals professionally for 20+ years.)
To avoid a repeat of last year, the ARTners reached out to Festival organizer David Sobon early to share their feedback and frustrations. The talks seemed to have worked. This year’s iteration highlights local talent, with roughly three dozen local artists participating.
“It’s great to see more homegrown talent represented,” states Egure. “I hope fellow artists don’t see this festival as a competition, [but rather] as an event that celebrates our different styles.”
While the festival hasn’t even begun at the time of publishing, the ARTners already have hopes for the future of the mural festival. The Collaborative wants the festival to live up to its “Art for All” motto by including the community.
“We’d love to see [Wide Open Walls] be more inclusive to youth and to the community at large. It would be amazing to allow the public to participate in the creation of one of the murals,” says Gutierrez.
Egure echoes the community-driven sentiment, positing that the festival could be more than the public art itself: “[Wide Open Walls] has to be an ongoing event, not just something that happens in August. If we really believe in supporting arts community, this festival has to have an impact. There should be tours, educational opportunities and pop-up events happening around the murals all year long.”
For Your Information
We couldn’t let readers miss out on these arresting interview tidbits:
- Looking to rep Wide Open Walls on the streets? You can purchase festival gear at the ARTners Collaborative studio.
- Along with bringing a little color to Improv Alley, Egure’s son, Vincent Egure of VinReady Fitness will lead two Art and Yoga classes (Art and Power Vinyasa and Art and Cosmic Yoga) on Second Saturday, August 12 at the Collaborative’s studio. The Collaborative will also contribute mannequins to Festival’s capstone fundraiser, the Wall Ball.
- From 2014-2016, Egure and Gutierrez ran the WKi2 Studio Gallery (1614 K Street), where the initial idea of ARTners was conceived. However as rents increased in anticipation for the Golden 1 Center, the gallery shuttered. Ironically, now the Collaborative is located just a block away from the arena. “The Kings got us priced out of our old space, and now we are neighbors,” jokes Egure.
- Interested in exploring more of our city’s mural scene? You can join Markos Egure on a WKI Mural Tour, which highlights just a few WKI Community Mural Projects and the Collaborative’s hand painted contributions to the area, including Solfire Yoga’s “TRANSCENDENCE” and YMCA Sacramento’s “UnderWater Y.”
- The ARTners Collaborative has regional expansion on the brain. The group would love to form a nonprofit so they can have a greater capacity to support the artist community. “We’d love to expand our reach. Our current location is hard…for those outside of downtown. I’d love for us to serve different communities by having multiple studio locations throughout the city.”
- How do the ARTners believe our City can better support the Sacramento artist community? “We have to think outside the box. Artists need spaces to create and show off their work. We could makes these spaces if we opened up vacant or underutilized office spaces to create pop-up galleries and studios. Property owners will need to adjust their way of thinking and trust us creatives,” says Egure.
Stay in Touch with the ARTners Collaborative:
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Markos Egure (a.k.a. Wes Kos Images)
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Teresa Gutierrez (a.k.a. Pinkstreet Art)
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Norm Ayles (a.k.a. Normaste Art)
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