Suitable for Framing

1,000 covers tell a love story with art

By Cecily Hastings
March 2021

This month celebrates a milestone: 1,000 Inside editions in 25 years of publishing. Each edition has featured an original piece of local art on the cover. It’s fair to say we have circulated and promoted more art than anyone in Sacramento history. When our quarter-century press run is added up, more than 20 million impressions of art have been shared since 1996!

I am honored to serve as Inside’s cover art curator-in-chief. It’s by far the best part of my job.
At first, when we published one edition, I worried we’d never find enough art for 12 covers a year. I knew a watercolorist who painted house portraits. She had a portfolio of a dozen pieces. That got me started.

Over the next few months, I visited galleries and reached out to artists. For technical print reasons at the time, I could only use watercolors. But as artists began to read our publications, they sent me photos of their work or invited me to their studios.

Over the years, my photographic skills and the printing process improved. Today, we publish acrylics, oils, drawings, mosaics and even sculptures.

In the early 2000s, the internet changed everything. Art galleries posted art online in addition to displaying originals. Artists learned to design personal websites to showcase their work. High-resolution cameras on cell phones made professional art photography possible without expensive and complex cameras and lights.

In 2016—our 20th anniversary—we hosted an art show at the 33rd Street Bistro (now closed, sadly). I contacted 25 artists whose works appeared on our covers and asked them to show the original work. We displayed a wall of covers. The show wasn’t comprehensive because most of the works had been sold—another huge benefit to the artists from the exposure we provide.

Wayne Thiebaud is the most famous artist to grace our covers. Most local artists are more modest in reputation, but highly talented and active in the art community.

Artists send me images every week. Some simply send an image, while others provide context of their experience. I tend to judge works more on how they appear as color compositions and whether they fit our horizontal format. I prefer to feature local scenes, still lifes, abstract images and portraits, excluding non-local scenes.

Our cover art space is 9.2 inches by 7.8 inches, so almost every image needs cropping to fit. We refer to that as showing a “detail” of the full image.

We’ve developed many community arts partnerships. We’ve helped promote special art exhibits at the Crocker Art Museum by featuring relevant works. In 2010, the California State Fair asked me to judge its fine art competition. I selected several images for our covers to run the month of the State Fair. The fair named it the “Inside Publisher’s Award.” I’ve selected winning artworks every year since for our covers.

When the Wide Open Walls mural festival began, I chose artwork by several local muralists the month the festival took place. Sacramento Photography Month debuted in April 2018. I selected local photographs for all four covers that month to raise visibility for the event.

Each fall we help the KVIE Art Auction by featuring artwork from their fundraising event. And I do my best to feature cover art from artists who have gallery shows each month.

Artists often send several examples of their work. If I choose one, the rest are kept on file. I estimate we have more than 2,000 art images from hundreds of artists. Yet we only need 48 art images a year with four monthly publications.

I’ve been blessed to get to know an amazing number of local artists. And I’ve bought three originals for my home. Each first appeared on our cover.

In 1996, watercolorist David Lobenberg submitted a number of great paintings. He kept submitting for years. He was excited because, he says, “If a collector like (the late) Russ Soloman buys one of my pieces, it sits in a house and is seen by only a handful of people. But when my art is on an Inside cover, it is exposed to thousands of folks!”

I met artist Jill Estroff a year after her first cover art ran in 2014. She introduced herself at a fundraising event and told me how much the cover experience meant. She had battled cancer and the return to painting helped her recover. The painting we published was the first she produced post-recovery. At that moment, she helped me understand what it must be like to have your art reach so many people.

“Sacramento has so many wonderful artists to choose from, so it is always a thrill when my art is selected for an Inside cover!” Estroff says. “As an emerging artist in 2014, that first cover and each one since have inspired me to keep painting.”

Kathy Lemke Waste is an accomplished local artist whose watercolors have been featured many times. “Every day in our city a thousand acts of community come together to make Sacramento the kind of socially sustainable city where people thrive,” she says.

“Inside Sacramento has always been about building community by profiling people who are the heart and soul of our hometown. And because not every story can be told in words, readers have been able to discover the work of local artists in full and glorious color on every cover of every issue for the past quarter century! That’s an extraordinary commitment, not just to the artists whose work is represented, but to the creative zeitgeist that makes our valley town such a vital and vibrant place to work and live,” she adds.

Watercolor artist Elaine Bowers says, “It’s always a thrill to see my art on the cover of Inside Sacramento, especially when it arrives in the mail, and I see it on the corner newsstand! I love that it’s an opportunity to share my art and that a publisher values art enough to feature it on the cover!”

Throughout this year, I’m going to select my favorite 25 covers that have run during 25 years. This month, we are featuring the art of Jill Estroff, Kathy Lemke Waste and Elaine Bowers.

Cecily Hastings can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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