STOCKTON -- When she moved to Stockton some 20 years ago, Joy Neas was in awe of its treasures: the natural waterfront, its rich history and interesting architecture.
"The first moment I saw Stockton, I never knew anything like that could exist. I never grew up with anything like that," said Neas, who was raised in Richmond. "I was in awe. I go downtown all the time. I never run out of things to do there. I celebrate downtown, go to restaurants, take photos, walk around and look at the architecture. At the Fox Theatre, you can go see old movies in a palatial, beautiful place that would have been torn down if not for the effort of a few people. I think the arts bring life, vitality to areas. I didn't want to see it die."
That's why Neas, an active member of the Mexican Heritage Center, teamed with Barbara Zaruba of the San Joaquín Law Library and members of the Tidewater art coalition to keep alive a Stockton tradition when the Downtown Stockton Alliance pulled its sponsorship of Art Walk, which it had started in 2006.
They came up with Summer ArtSplash, which invites folks downtown to visit different venues and see works by local artists. The first of the three planned for this summer it was held Friday (June 8).
Gilbert Olivas and Rudy García, in his last planned show, exhibited 'Dos Visiones' at the Mexican Heritage Center (111 S. Sutter St.); the Law Library (20 N. Sutter St.) is celebrating Stockton Collegiate International students who competed in its Law Day Art Competition and created the show 'No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom;' and Tidewater photographers Karen Olson, Arturo Vera, Heide Stover, Henry Paine, Steve Pereira and Dick McClure, who combined for 'Silver Gelatin to Digital,' are hanging their work at the County Administration Building (44 N. San Joaquin St.).
Neas wanted a hands-on activity for kids at each ArtSplash, and teachers from Jagged Lines of Imagination, whose founder, Jon Guerzon, created the Summer ArtSplash logo, had tables set up in the lobby of the Kress Building, where the Law Library is located. Representatives from Delta Fusion, the puppet program scheduled for June 30 at Victory Park, were in the Kress Building, too. The Mexican Heritage Center will have something for kids to create each month.
The Downtown Stockton Alliance, while no longer sponsoring the monthly summer art walk, did participate in Summer ArtSplash, opening its doors at 343 E. Main St. to show works by members of the Stockton Art League. Like the Law Library, the Alliance is keeping art work up beyond the night of the ArtSplash, so visitors may stop by during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, to see the work.
Fathers and Families of San Joaquín (338 Market St.) is also displaying student art work, created by students who entered the Tidewater student art show earlier this year.
An artist who crochets and takes photographs, Neas has long been a member of different arts groups in Stockton. She had a show scheduled to open at Hodgepodge Gallery, the Tidewater's forerunner, on Sept. 11, 2001. Despite the tragedy, Neas went ahead with the show.
"I think the arts have a way of healing," she said. "I think it can happen in Downtown Stockton, for there to be new life in downtown. I didn't want to see things go backward.
The debut of Summer ArtSplash proves Neas is willing to back up her words with deeds.
Details on the Law Library is available by calling (209) 468-3920; on the Tidewater at (209) 986-0979; and the Mexican Heritage Center at (209) 598-6525.