ENCINITAS — An unprecedented number of people packed the old Cabo Grill as it was once again transformed into an art gallery with original banners lining the walls and railings during the 13th annual Arts Alive banner unveiling ceremony Feb. 3.Artists joined friends, family and art enthusiasts for the ceremony. The first glimpse at the banners that will hang on lampposts throughout the city was inspiring to many, especially because the banner program is dedicated to the late City Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan, who died Sept. 16, 2011.More than a few of the banners depicted Houlihan and her larger-than-life persona. Houlihan’s husband, Ian Thompson, gave the opening remarks before the unveiling. “Maggie loved the arts,” he said. Thompson also said Houlihan would be “tickled” that her image on the back of the banners made such a stir.
The permit to hang the banners with Houlihan’s likeness on the back was rejected by city staff citing municipal code that reads in part ” … said banners are for civic and nonprofit city-wide recognized special events.” However, some feel it was a personal attack on the late councilwoman. “It’s just wrong,” said Carolyn Cope. “She’s not political anymore, this is to honor one of our community leaders.” Once the 101 Artists Colony resubmitted the application without her image it was granted.
Dody Crawford celebrated another one of Houlihan’s passions with her banner, “Friend to the Animals,” which depicts a youthful Maggie Houlihan surrounded by animals. “’The purity of a person’s heart can be quickly measured by how they regard animals.’ Nothing truer can be said of Maggie Houlihan,” the catalog entry reads.
Local artist Bre Custodio was excited to pull the butcher paper covering her untitled banner depicting a curling wave. “That was the best barrel of my life,” Custodio said. Like a few other artists, Custodio plans to donate a potion of the proceeds from the sale of her banner.
“I have a friend who has been traveling the world helping communities,” she said. “She’s setting up a shark preserve now in the Cook Islands.” Custodio also hopes the banner will raise people’s consciousness about water issues. “My friend is an endless source of inspiration, she’s given the past three years to tackling environmental issues and hopefully this will help a little to keep her going,” she said.
Beverly Goodman and Valerie Sorrells are donating the proceeds of their banner, “Saint Maggie,” to Rancho Coastal Humane Society, one of Houlihan’s favorite charities. The banner depicts Houlihan wearing one of her favorite oversized necklaces. “Maggie we miss you,” reads the catalog inscription.
Conceived in 2000, the banner program has been adapted in various cities across the country. “It’s a great way to get the community involved in public art,” Ben Hopkins said as he scanned the various banners. “It’s become a part of our spring in Encinitas, to see the representations of local scenes and so many other things on the (Highway) 101 when they put the banners up.”
UCSD Health System, Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas and Seaside Market are program sponsors of the banner program this year. Proceeds from the sale of banners will be split in half between the artists and either the 101 Artists’ Colony, Cardiff 101 MainStreet or Leucadia 101 MainStreet Association.
Silent bidding was already in full swing as people picked out favorites early in the day. “There are so many good ones this year,” Shelly Bardot said. “I might actually bid this time.”
The banners will come down in May and each of the original works of art will be auctioned off to the general public May 20 at the Cardiff Town Center Courtyard, at San Elijo Road at Birmingham Drive.
Bids will be accepted through the DEMA office until the live auction. For more information, call (760) 943-1950 or visit ArtsAliveEncinitas.com.