“What a fun place! What a fun way to spend the morning!” said Sunnyvale resident Austin Harley to his seven-year-old daughter, Ivy, as they made their way to the bike parking enclosure—attended as a service project by Boy Scout Troop 485—and retrieved their bikes.
A family of four, the Harleys were among an estimated 2,000 kids eager for art and their parents, attending Sunnyvale’s 38th Annual Hands on the Arts, an all-day festival May 13. The creative focus was entirely on art—the “a” in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) curriculum for Sunnyvale students.
The hands-on art activities took place outdoors, spread over the Sunnyvale Community Center’s recreation campus at 550 E. Remington Dr. Thirty-seven booths provided art projects appropriate for 2 to 14-year-olds, who lined up to make paper collage robots, origami, sea glass creations, slime art (honest), Mexican Day of the Dead masks, and on and on.
Ethnically diverse performing artists sang, danced and played instruments on the main stage. Fratello Marionettes told magical stories on the puppetry stage. Reflecting the inclusive nature of the festival, even the food trucks offered diverse fare—Mexican, Indian, Japanese and Kona (Hawaian) ice.
“Art is a huge component of the core values of Sunnyvale. Public art is part of the Master Plan finalized during COVID [in November 2020],” said Recreation Services Manager Michele-Bridget Ragsdale, proud that her dad grew up in Sunnyvale and her parents still live there.
Sunnyvale, with an ethnically diverse population of 155,805 and a five-member Arts Commission appointed in 1990, has one of the largest public art collections in Northern California—a growing collection of more than 150 artworks. They can be toured online and in person. The arts commission is poised to choose an icon to represent Sunnyvale.
“Today is an opportunity for kids to come and try out a variety of hands-on art and to express their creativity. It’s a gateway, an introduction to all kinds of visual and performing arts,” said Ragsdale.
“It’s great to see this festival [launched in 1985] grow. It used to be smaller, just 800 – 1,000 people,” said Ragsdale.
During COVID, the city sponsored a drive-thru event and handed out art kits at school lunch pickup locations.
She said that the participating artists applied and were chosen for the festival. The city paid for the art supplies for 500 kids for each art station. By 1:30 p.m., some of the stations had closed because their supplies were depleted.
Adriana and George Aguilar brought their daughter, Ava, to the festival for the first time.
“Our daughter loves anything to do with art,” said Adriana Aguilar. “The different booths represent different cultures. They let her create whatever she wanted. She’s happy!
“I’m ready to eat!”
The fun at Hands on the Arts was not yet over.