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Performance painter David Garibaldi still draws inspiration from Sacramento’s streets and people. <a">

Performance painter David Garibaldi still draws inspiration from Sacramento’s streets and people.

Photo By ryan donahue

David Garibaldi

Best creator of urban-pop portraits—in less than five minutes

David Garibaldi credits his high- school animation teacher with showing him outlets for his creativity beyond the graffiti he sprayed on the south Sacramento streets as a teenager. Still, the streets—the sounds and people of Sacramento—inspire Garibaldi’s every move.

His enthusiasm can be attributed to the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, which paid for his summer school class at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles before his senior year in high school. “I got to be around people who actually wanted to be in art class,” he said. “It sparked a transformation in my artistic life.”

Garibaldi spent his youth dancing in hip-hop crews and playing the trumpet. Later, it was urban-jazz sessions at clubs like Fox & Goose that fueled Garibaldi’s interest in improvisational, rhythmic performance painting. “I would go to different nightclubs and paint the deejays,” he said. “They were a direct influence, literally feet away from my art work.”

With his creativity, work ethic and improvisational skill, he seemed destined for something great—even though he was broke. At age 20, he was about to be evicted from his apartment on the corner of 26th and N streets. His car had been repossessed.

Ready to collect rent, his landlord saw his paintings.

“Lovely work,” said the landlord, with a heavy British accent. “I love underwater [scenes]. Can you [paint] something on the front of the building?”

Garibaldi painted an underwater landscape with fish and coral on the front of the building. It took a week, but he received two months of free rent. Soon, he would paint another mural at Ink Eats & Drinks down the street in exchange for food and a few hundred dollars.

As his horizons continued to expand, so did his success. Garibaldi discovered a friend’s Denny Dent painting of Jimi Hendrix, and that made a huge impact on his art. To this day, Garibaldi’s signature paintings are much like Dent’s: urban-pop portraits of famous musicians and other inconic figures—everyone from Bob Marley to Albert Einstein. Garibaldi creates his colorful, outsized portraits in minutes, dancing as he works, dazzling auditoriums full of people with the speed and movement of his creative process. He gives shout outs to Dent at every performance.

Garibaldi has toured the world opening for bands, raised thousands for charity, and created fine art for Disney and the estates of Jimi Hendrix and Elvis. On October 26, he will perform Garibaldi Live: A Music and Color Concert Experience at the Crest Theatre, painting to live music by local musicians.

He also willingly shares his secret to success for creative people: “The biggest hurdle that artists have is: ‘Who is going to hear about me?’” he said. “Whatever your medium is … look beyond art, look into the things you’re passionate about. Mine was music. A lot of my fans are people who don’t normally collect art, and that’s who I want to appeal to—the millions of other people who are outside of just the art world.”

Jonathan Mendick


Lynlee Towne, ballet mistress for the Sacramento Ballet, inspires the dancers to move beyond the steps. <a href="">Sacramento Ballet springs into dance</a>

Photo By ryan donahue

Lynlee Towne

Best ballet break-down artist

Every little girl at some point declares she wants to be a ballerina. The novelty usually fades, but not for Lynlee Towne. At 12, she attended her first ballet class in her hometown of Ukiah and knew, “This is what I’m doing with my life.” The now 35-year-old honored her declaration and currently is the ballet mistress for the Sacramento Ballet.

Towne retired from professional dancing four years ago, but her limbs remain powerful and lean. Her elegant fingers gesticulate when she talks, their movements unintended choreography. Her hair is tied in a bun and pushed off her face with a hot-pink headband, which becomes momentarily obscured by a gallon-sized Arrowhead water container.

“My goal is one a day right now,” Towne says.

No doubt, she’ll reach that goal. Determined by nature, Towne’s drive to dance and teach was recognized early. “I remember teaching, taking over classes when I barely knew ballet, because my original teacher, Mary Knight, thought I was just going to be a teacher, naturally. So I was taking over classes when I had only been dancing for a year,” she laughs. Knight just knew.

Ron Cunningham knew, too. The co-artistic director of the Sacramento Ballet saw a 13-year-old Towne perform a “very emotionally driven” solo at Regional Dance America. When fate placed them in an elevator together, he told the adolescent, “I want you to dance for me someday.”

“I have a very vivid memory [of that performance],” Cunningham says. “I thought, ‘This child is awesome.’”

After studying and professionally dancing in Ohio and Indiana for two years, Towne decided to take a class from Cunningham at the Sacramento Ballet—and unexpectedly found a home there. She spent seven-and-a-half years dancing with the troupe.

Towne pursued other interests, too, including dancing with contemporary troupes in the Bay Area, studying massage and physical therapy, and teaching Pilates. But when it became evident to Cunningham and his wife, Sacramento Ballet co-director Carinne Binda—“one of the most incredible artists” Towne has come across—that a ballet mistress was needed, Towne’s name came up. “[She is] an exemplary dancer, has a formidable work ethic,” Cunningham says. He knew she had the ability to “help inspire the dancer to do more than just the steps.”

Towne’s role as ballet mistress begins after a choreographer comes in and sets a ballet. “When they leave, they leave it in my hands or in the artistic directors’ hands. My job is to break it apart, clean it, polish it, clarify questions of everybody’s parts … and put it back together again.”

She also acts as a liaison between the administrative and artistic staff, and oversees classes in the evenings. Matriculation is at 200 this year, and she displays as much passion for teaching as she does for her own dancing. “Just to see [the younger students’] little successes is amazing. And to see that they’re learning tools that are applicable to every aspect of their life. … They’re learning that they can always do more than they thought they can and succeed.”

Dancing, Towne says, is “the closest to God, and the most spiritual experience I can have.”

“It’s absolute magic.”



Liv Moe, executive director at the Verge Center for the Arts, connects local artists with the resources they need to thrive. <a href=""></a>

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Liv Moe

Best gateway drug for Sacramento’s art scene

Verge Center for the Arts is a unique model in Sacramento that provides working artists with affordable gallery space and promotes local art through exhibitions, events and classes. Liv Moe has been there since the beginning, and quickly launched to the directorship. Over the last year, she’s helped Verge transition to a larger, nonprofit space at 625 S Street, with more than 35 studios.

“The thing that interests me about what I’m doing,” Moe says, “is that I’m bringing lesser-seen types of art and influences into the region and trying hard to continue to establish dialogue between Sacramento and the outside world.”

Verge focuses on contemporary art that represents the collision of everyday life experiences and how they relate to art. Verge sponsors movie nights, dinners and other events that bring a new audience to the gallery. “I’m trying to take art out of the space that waits for people to come appreciate it and find ways to make it more relevant to the community,” says Moe. “I’m trying to be the gateway drug for the Sacramento art community.”

Moe graduated with an art degree from UC Davis, but felt stifled when she realized there were so few resources here for working artists—despite being home to national talents like Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos. “The goal that I have for Verge is that it will end up being like the Headlands Center [for the Arts] in Marin or the Richmond [Art] Center, where you have an intermix of resident art space with exhibition space and other resources,” she notes. “We’ve never had a place where artists can get experience teaching and working amongst peers and sharing an audience with exhibition space. That’s my big picture for Verge.”

Ann Martin Rolke


Prize-winning fiction writer Valerie Fioravanti has inspired Sacramento’s creative prose community with her Stories on Stage reading series.

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Valerie Fioravanti

Best friend to fiction writers

Prize-winning fiction writer Valerie Fioravanti makes her living teaching the craft of writing. She’s also built (in a surprisingly short amount of time) a vibrant community of prose writers in what’s always been known as a poetry town.

“There is this wonderful poetry community here,” Fioravanti says. When she first moved to town, the Sacramento Poetry Center invited her to read. “It was wonderful. So I asked, ‘Where is the fiction writers’ community?’ And they said, ‘Well, you have to leave Sacramento to find that. You have to go to Berkeley or San Francisco.’”

It’s not in Fioravanti’s nature to take statements like that at face value. She decided to start a reading series, based on her favorite series in New York City. Selected Shorts is—in addition to an NPR program and a traveling series—a fiction-reading series starring Broadway actors, based at Symphony Space in Manhattan.

Since Sacramento is also a big theater town, finding actors was easy. Fioravanti started Stories on Stage a little more than a year ago. Readings are held at the Sacramento Poetry Center, located at 1719 25th Street, on the last Friday of the month, and have featured local and visiting writers.

Fioravanti’s community-building mission includes organizing Master Teacher Workshops for local writers. These two-day workshops kicked off last June with a visit by C. Michael Curtis, fiction editor at The Atlantic. Two more are scheduled, with room for 12 writers to work closely with the visiting writer.

All this, on top of making her living teaching (online at UC Los Angeles, for UC Davis and in private workshops) and doing her own writing. It seems to be working out pretty well. Fioravanti’s short-story collection, Garbage Night at the Opera, won the 2011 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction from BkMk Press, and will be published in 2012.

Kel Munger