This community nourishes and promotes its artists in many ways, including a vibrant public arts program and joint events with Cal Poly; check local papers or the San Luis Obispo Arts Council website for details.
But if you only partake of one art-related foray on your visit, aim to be in town on the first Friday night of the month so you can check out the downtown Art After Dark program. Though many shops open earlier, Art After Dark officially starts at 6 p.m., with galleries inviting you to visit, have a glass of wine and a few nibbles, browse, and buy until 9 p.m. On a typical Art After Dark, over 20 galleries and non-traditional art venues (think restaurants, boutiques, and salons) spotlight established and emerging local artists. Many studios are also open, so you can chat with artists themselves.
While walking between the various participating businesses, you’ll also see plenty of impressive creations along the way thanks to San Luis Obispo’s Public Art Program. Over 70 pieces of art, which range from murals to mosaics, adorned utility boxes to embellished bridge railings and benches, instill the city with a sometimes whimsical, sometimes edgy but always creative feel.
The performing arts, notably live music, has a home in SLO’s Historic Fremont Theater. In business since 1942, this shrine to nightlife with the gorgeous pink, yellow, and blue neon sign has lived most of its lifespan as a movie theater and live entertainment venue, and today hosts concerts by acts ranging from country artists to under-the-radar indie bands. Check its upcoming shows page to see what’s on the calendar.
If you’re in town when Cal Poly is in session, head up to campus to visit the University Art Gallery, in the Dexter Building, to see the latest student creations. Also on exhibit is work by alumni artists who have gone on to pursue professional careers in not only painting and sculpture but photography, video, and graphic arts as well.