More than spring is in the air in Pleasanton -- the arts are in the air as folks all over town prepare for a city-wide celebration taking place May 11 -- the Big Draw.
Stop by the middle schools and find students decorating pianos from top to bottom, which will be placed at four spots on Main Street the week of May 5 for any passerby to sit down and tinkle the ivories.
Stop by Juice & Java Express on Angela Street and see Kylie Gipson and Jillian Freiheit, employees who are also artists, collaborating on a design for their chalk art.
Stop by Towne Center Books on Main Street where owner Judy Wheeler is coordinating merchants for a mystery that will be solved by clues left in businesses all over town.
Stop by a board meeting of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, which is presenting the Big Draw, and the excitement is palpable. The event will not only bring everyone together to celebrate the arts, it will benefit the Arts in the Schools Grant Program.
"The board always wanted to do a large signature art event for a wide variety of people and age groups," said PCAC president Jill Vellinger. "We're providing an opportunity for artists to share their creativity and help us celebrate the richness that arts bring to our lives."
Year ago, board member Margene Rivera returned from Santa Barbara raving about a chalk art festival, Vellinger explained.
"When she brought the idea back, it was a distant dream," she said.
San Rafael also has held a chalk arts festival for almost two decades to benefit the schools.
Now Pleasanton's time has come. The Big Draw from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. will include chalk art up and down Division Street with professional chalk artists Cecilia Linayao, Mark Wagner, and the mother/daugher team of Chris Pasadis and Jessica Fowler making their creations on three huge squares, beginning the day before. Squares that measure 4 feet by 4 feet have been getting sponsors -- such as Juice & Java -- for $125 for chalk art to be applied May 11.
"The Big Draw refers to people drawing on the sidewalk, but also because we believe the arts are a big draw," Vellinger explained.
The day of the event, 2 foot by 2 foot squares will be available for $20, which includes a box of chalk.
"It'll be a cool thing to do," Vellinger said, noting that it is the day before Mother's Day and young artists could dedicate something to their mom and bring her by the next day.
Performances will take place throughout the day on stages in front of the Firehouse Arts Center and at the intersection of Main Street and Division. Troupes include Valley Dance Theatre, Cantabella Children's Chorus, Ramayana, Folkloric Dance Troupe, Chinese Dance Troupe, Beat Boys and Creatures of Impulse teen improv.
A rummage and arts and crafts sale will line Railroad Avenue in front of the Firehouse. Unwanted treasures and household items can be donated -- learn more at www.the-big-draw.com. But you might want to be at the Pleasanton Farmers Market on Angela Street at 11 a.m. where a big surprise is planned in conjunction with the arts event.
The Big Draw also includes a chance for everyone to become a detective and help solve the Mystery of the Missing Monet downtown. In this case the "Monet" is a painting called Monet's Garden created by Pleasanton artist Charlotte Severin. The first chapter is printed in this week's Pleasanton Weekly with subsequent chapters to appear during the next three weeks.
Clues are hidden at participating merchants, where "detectives" will be awarded one drawing ticket if they enter a store and there is no clue, and four tickets if the store has a clue. When finding a clue, participants can take photos if it and when all four are collected they can bring them to Towne Center Books, or just tell them where they found the clues, and they will be given a button that says, "I Solved the Big Draw Mystery."
The drawings will be done around 3-3:30 p.m. May 11, and people need not be present to win. Prizes include a monthlong family pass to Club Sport, a stay at a river cabin in Yosemite, a limited edition of Monet's Garden, and much more.
The Big Draw has a budget of $12,500, said Vellinger, which is 5% of what San Rafael pays to produce its arts festival. Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council donated half of the amount and the other half is coming from a grant from the city.
"There will also be a live sculpting demonstration, and face-painting, for a charge, an author's row, and slam poetry by the Teen Poet Laureate," Vellinger said. "We want to show that art is not a passive experience -- the art will be seen, felt, touched, enjoyed."
Calling all pianists
Four upright pianos have been donated to the Big Draw and are being decorated by Harvest Park, Hart and Pleasanton middle schools as well at the Tri-Valley YMCA. They will be placed for your playing and listening pleasure from May 3-13 at the following locations on Main Street:
1. Inside the gazebo in front of Round Table pizza.
2. To right of Towne Center Books on the grassy area.
3. In front of Valley Community Bank.
4. Next to Joanna's Bridal, on the sidewalk against the long green fence.
"The pianos that will be on Main Street was an idea that outgoing Civic Arts Commissioner Howard Seebach, had long wanted to see happen," Vellinger said. "It is because of Howard's passion for this idea that the Civic Arts Commission personally took on the coordination of the pianos ... . Howard and the other Civic Arts Commissioners operate behind the scenes to make art happen in Pleasanton."
Help Solve The Big Draw Monet Mystery -- Clue 1
In the early 1900s, Pleasanton was already a bustling community. Phoebe Hearst had her large estate, Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, the race track was a popular destination spot, and the hops fields were the largest in the state.
There were many active and wealthy citizens in the town, but there was a new member of the community who wanted to make a big impression. His name was Clement C. Howell, and in order to impress everyone and meet his neighbors, he organized a huge party to celebrate his acquisition of a painting by Monet of his garden in Giverny.
On April 13, 1909, Howell opened the doors of his home to over 300 guests, who even if they'd never heard of Monet, came to see Mr. Howell's home and eat his food. He had the painting hidden away in a secret vault and when the crowd was at its largest, he sent his trusted servant, Maria, to the vault to bring the painting. But when she got to the vault, the painting was gone! All she found in the place of the painting was this note and a red bandana tied around a daisy:
"You have everything, so I know you won't miss this one little thing! But here's something for you..."
The party quickly broke into chaos, with everyone trying to find the missing painting. Superior Court Judge T.W. Harris took charge of the red bandana and daisy and brought them to the police. But even though they tracked down some clues, they never found the missing painting or found out who took it.
Now it's up to you to solve this 100-year-old mystery. If you do, you will be entered to win one of the fabulous prizes from The Big Draw: A City-Wide Arts Celebration on May 11. Go to www.The-Big-Draw.com to learn how to play or pick up instructions at a participating merchant.
This mystery combines fact and fiction. To learn more about Pleasanton's history, go to the Museum on Main or Towne Center Books to read up.