Most opportunities to support the arts in Bakersfield are on a smaller scale — an exhibition opening, art walk or festival. But when you're gathering more than 400 artists to create work at the same time, you can only be talking about Via Arte.

Organized by the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the Italian street painting festival is in its 19th year and planning to take over a swath of the parking lot at The Marketplace this weekend. 

This year's festival will feature the most artists ever gathered for the event, according to museum curator Rachel Magnus, with 429 professional and student artists participating. They will create 156 squares, ranging from 4-by-6 foot student squares to those measuring 7-by-7, 8-by-12 and 12-by-12.

In addition to the most artists, this event is also notable for its largest square ever — 14 by 20 feet — which will be designed by featured artist Ever Galvez.

Galvez, who has participated for a number of years as a visiting artist, won the award for “Best Visiting Artist" last year. The Southern California artist will create "Idylle (Idylls)," an early work from Gustav Klimt, who many know for his famous 1908 painting "The Kiss."

Magnus wrote of the 1884 painting: "The allegorical image depicts two athletes, looking almost like sculptures rather than human, surrounding a female figure offering two children a bowl from which to drink. The painting is very much inspired by the Renaissance, with obvious overtones of Michelangelo in the depiction of the athletes and in the classical nature of the poses."

Galvez and others working on larger squares will start Friday but the fun really gears up Saturday morning when all the artists will be ready to get their hands dirty for the next two days.

Magnus said many artists return with former collaborators.

"I enjoy seeing the camaraderie of the artists who participate year after year, true and lasting friendships and community have been created through this festival."

Those who are inspired by what they see can take part. For $20, attendees can buy a 2-by-2-foot square that they can design as they see fit with the provided chalks. Those squares are open to the "bambinos" children they are named for as well as adults who want to try their hand at the work.

Entertainment will also include belly dancers, music by Lost Vinyl, Therese Muller, Last Call, Ken Bausano, the John Hollins Band and Mr. Trimble & Unique Soul, and performances by Claydoh the Clown.

And, in an addition that may be most appreciated by the artists themselves, Samsara Wellness Center is planning to offer a free community yoga class from 9 to 10 a.m. Sunday.

"Our First Friday Yoga classes here at the BMoA sculpture garden have been such a success, we are excited to expand the offering to our largest offsite event," Magnus wrote.

"The artists will also be grateful after having worked on the asphalt for (the) previous 24 hours."

Awards are announced at 3 p.m. Sunday, with honors for best in festival, best rendition of a Master, best technique, best use of color, best visiting artist and people's choice. 

Also announced Sunday will be the winner of the Via Arte Opportunity Drawing. For $20 a ticket, participants have a chance to win $5,000 worth of travel anywhere in the world. The travel arrangements must be booked through Uniglobe Golden Empire Travel by Oct. 22, 2018.

Tickets are on sale now at the museum and will be available while supplies last at the festival. Proceeds benefit the BMoA Fund, which supports the preservation of the museum's permanent collection, visiting exhibitions and youth art education and outreach.

Magnus said she is looking forward to seeing all the hard work of her team pay off with a big community turnout.

"The festival allows so many to experience works of art created firsthand, a unique experience that we could never achieve within the museum walls. The opportunity to bring art out into the community truly serves the museum's purpose and mission."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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