WATSONVILLE—A week after Frida Kahlo’s birthday on July 6, Watsonville’s art community came together on July 16 for a festival to celebrate the artist’s life, work and legacy.
“Frida Por Vida” Frida Kahlo Festival was organized by Arte del Corazon, an organization that has been staging open-air art shows, markets and events at Romo Park and other locations in downtown Watsonville since late 2019. The group aims to give a platform to artists who have been historically excluded from the arts world, especially local Latino artists.
Organizers Monica Galvan, Vanessa Ledesma and others teamed up to keep Arte del Corazon going through the pandemic, when many artists were looking for safe, accessible spaces to showcase and sell their work. Galvan applied for and was eventually awarded a grant from Arts Council of Santa Cruz County, which has helped the group expand since its inception.
Blanca Avalos was on hand at Saturday’s festival selling her homemade candles, salt scrubs and more.
“It means so much to be here,” Avalos said, “supporting other small artists as we celebrate Frida.”
Monterey Bay Murals owner and artist Paul DeWorken agreed.
“This is my third Arte del Corazon event,” he said. “It’s just a good opportunity to connect with the community and see some great local art.”
The festival featured a number of artists selling everything from homemade jewelry and knitted hats to art prints and handbags. There was also live music, food trucks, arts and crafts, and two large sculptures to take photographs with—one, of Kahlo’s famous blue house in Mexico, and the other depicting the artist as a tall, adorned skeleton figure.
Valéria Miranda, executive director of Pajaro Valley Arts who is originally from Brazil, said she was eager to attend the event, as Kahlo is one of her favorite artists.
“I’ve actually been to her house,” she said. “She is such an inspiring artist, but also went through so much. I’m down for any opportunity to celebrate her and Latino culture.”
Miranda also pointed out how Arte del Corazon’s ongoing events are part of the growing arts movement in downtown Watsonville. Studio Judy G, a gallery and studio space from artist Judy Gittelsohn, is now up and running. The Arts Council will open its new Watsonville Center for the Arts later this month. And Pajaro Valley Arts just recently purchased the historic Porter Building, which they will transform into a center that will include galleries, retail space, a multipurpose room, meeting rooms and more.
“I’m just so excited about what’s going on,” Miranda said. “Downtown Watsonville is truly becoming an arts hub for the county. That’s really amazing.”
Saturday’s festival, held throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, also featured a “Frida look-alike” contest, where people could dress up as Kahlo and be voted on by fellow attendees and organizers.
Artist and local teacher Ana Muñoz was one such participant, wearing a colorful dress and crown of flowers. She said that honoring Kahlo is especially important after what many artists went through during the pandemic.
“Frida struggled through a lot,” Muñoz said. “She went through a terrible injury, a long recovery … She created art during that time. That’s what a lot of us have been doing recently. A lot of us lost so much. So it’s wonderful we can all be here, on this beautiful day … It makes everyone happy, and these days we really need that.”
Arte del Corazon is currently partnering with the City of Watsonville’s Music in the Plaza series, which runs through Sept. 16. Every third Friday of the month, families can visit the plaza for live music and then walk across the street to the art market. For information visit watsonvillerec.com and artedelcorazon.com.