Morro Bay has long attracted surfers and artists with its picturesque beachside setting, sunsets and steady diet of rideable waves.
In November, those two passions will unite in the form of the first Morro Bay Surfboard Art Festival.
The event resembles similarly themed public art exhibits adopted by other communities — such as Chicago’s Cows on Parade and the Hearts in San Francisco display. In 2005, 16 colorful fish sculptures decorated downtown San Luis Obispo in a fundraiser for the Prado Day Center called “Trout About Town.”
In Morro Bay, 22 artistic surfboards will be displayed outside businesses around town from Nov. 1 to Nov. 28. Local businesses can sponsor a board by contributing $250. Thus far, 17 of the 22 boards have been sponsored.
At the end of the show, a public auction of the boards will be held Nov. 29 at the Inn at Morro Bay from 5 to 8 p.m. Some of the proceeds from both the auction and the business sponsorships will go to two nonprofit organizations, Morro Bay in Bloom and Project Surf Camp.
“This is part of an attempt to promote and appreciate public art,” said Walter Heath, president of Morro Bay in Bloom, the event’s organizing group. “The boards will mostly be painted. But there will be a few surprises, sculptures and other types of themes, even a mosaic.”
Twenty-seven artists, including student teams from Del Mar Elementary School and Los Osos Middle School, are participating in the event. Some projects will be auctioned but not displayed in town.
Most artists are still working on their projects, which will include a variety of sizes and shapes of surfboards. Artists were notified about the festival through programs such as Art After Dark and by word of mouth.
Pleasant Hill artist Julie Peterson Goonan has already finished one surfboard. She’s working on a second.
Peterson Goonan, a Bay Area native, has ties to the Central Coast because her parents lived in Morro Bay for 20 years and her sister resides in Los Osos.
She bought a used, 6-foot board for $50 and then prepared it by filling in holes with putty, sanding it down and applying primer. Her painting features bright yellow flowers, a sun in the center and an assortment of colorful patterns with a Southwestern feel. The project took about a week.
“I hadn’t tried it before, but I love painting on surfboard,” Peterson Goonan said. “It’s a great canvas.”
Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons pitched the idea after seeing a bicycle-themed public art show in Vermont, and Morro Bay in Bloom ran with it.
“I saw the bicycles displayed outside of different stores and displays around town,” Irons said. “I thought ‘Morro Bay is a coastal community. We could do the same thing with surfboards.’”
With this year’s roster of artists filled up, event coordinators are in the process of completing sponsorship commitments and designing art walk maps to direct the public.
Proceeds from the business sponsorships will be split between Morro Bay in Bloom and Project Surf Camp. From the auction, artists will receive 80 percent of the proceeds. The rest will be split between the two nonprofits.
“The 80 percent take for the artists is a really high percentage,” Heath said. “We wanted everybody to win from this. That’s why we had that split.”
Morro Bay in Bloom coordinates volunteer landscaping, cleanups and maintenance projects on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Project Surf Camp is a charitable organization that provides surf lessons to children with special needs.
Festival sponsorships thus far include one of Morro Bay’s older businesses, Coalesce Bookstore, which has existed 41 years, and one of its newer ones, The Grill Hut, which has been around less than a year, Heath said.