A little whimsy in Atascadero

Something magical happened at Atascadero Lake this week. Through Facebook groups and friends, I learned about a project that some creative and thoughtful person or persons created that brightened the lives of local residents out for a stroll around the lake. Walkers with sharp eyes spotted at least a dozen (probably more) colorful, painted stones dotting the landscape around the lake’s walking path bearing friendly and inspirational phrases. I love that somebody took the time to do this, not for any type of personal gain, but just to put smiles on faces.

I’ve always been a proponent of public art. Not only does it provide visual appeal to our surroundings, it also gives a sense of wonder, whimsy and inspiration. Public art demonstrations and installations can make us feel like kids again and it can also show actual children that the world can be a fun and beautiful place.

I recall a recent online conversation I had with another Atascadero resident and when I mentioned my affinity for public art and my desire to see more public art in Atascadero, the response was that it’s “tough to get public art funded.” Basically, good luck with that. That’s why I really love the type of folk art project implemented at the lake. It takes nothing but the artist’s time and creativity, a little paint and a few rocks, no public funding necessary.

Personally, I would love to see larger scale projects come to Atascadero. Giant folk art project such as Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea, a small mountainside painted in bright colors, Bible quotes and spiritual messages, or more locally, Nitt Witt Ridge in Cambria, a castle created from materials including beer cans, sea shells and concrete, bring in thousands of tourists every year and neither one of them took a dime of public money. They were each created through the passion and vision of a single artist.

One of my favorite places to visit, Bisbee, Ariz., is absolutely full of public art. Everywhere you look there are brightly colors murals, statues, sculptures… even the local dog park is adorned with paintings and art. And again, none of it funded with public money. It gives the town a sense of identity and more of that whimsy and wonder we were talking about. For those who appreciate art, the town is beyond fun to explore.

Kudos to whoever came up with the idea to place the painted stones around the lake. Let’s keep it up!

More In Columns