Sacramento’s Hot Italian restaurant exhibits soccer ball art during World Cup

Flat-screen TVs showing World Cup matches aren’t the only stare-worthy objects for soccer fans at midtown’s Hot Italian restaurant.

The popular pizzeria is also hosting an art exhibit featuring six unique soccer balls created by local artists.

“Art of the Ball,” a collaboration between Hot Italian and the Sacramento Metropolitan Art Commission, will be displayed through July 13 – the day of the World Cup final. Until then, visitors can view – and bid – on the spherical soccer art, with proceeds going to Friends of the Arts Commission, which supports arts education in schools.

“We wanted to figure out a way to incorporate the game while involving art,” said Andrea Lepore, creative director and development partner at Hot Italian, who came up with the idea.

“Art of the Ball” is a new take on a past event. “Art of the Game,” held during the 2010 World Cup, had local fashion designers creating special World Cup jerseys, which Hot Italian featured in a fashion show.

Four years later, Hot Italian and SMAC asked area artists to work their magic with a ball.

Artists Donine Wellman 63, and Sid Wellman 65, of Rancho Cordova each created a vibrant piece, displayed alongside Hot Italian’s racks of soccer jerseys and jackets.

Sid Wellman’s piece, titled “Hot Sox,” is a bright green ball embossed with yellow and orange flowers and a quote in white script from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” – “Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. The magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”

“I don’t know where this stuff comes from,” Sid Wellman said when asked about inspiration.

Donine Wellman’s “Ups, Downs, Scores” is hot pink with black X’s, O’s and arrows.

Another eye-grabbing piece is Eric Dahlin’s “Football Harvest,” a bright orange, carrot-esque ball next to a bunny statue.

John Fortes, 61, said he didn’t want to focus his design on anything soccer related. Instead, his ball, “Sao Ballo,” was inspired by the graffiti culture in Brazil, where the World Cup is being held.

“Graffiti is kind of universal,” he explained.

Robert Ray, 54, is also intrigued by street art. Ray’s soccer ball, painted black, features a strip of a colorful collage running around its equator.

“The black was to represent asphalt,” he said. “I definitely wanted to communicate the urban aspect of playing soccer.”

Ray, who played soccer in Germany as a teenager, created a subtle crackling effect to give the soccer ball more of a black-top appearance.

His concern, along with the other artists, was figuring out what materials would adhere to the soccer ball’s vinyl surface.

Artist Gary Dinnen used a matte medium on his soccer ball in order to make his paint stick.

“Gary ran a series of tests on the ball, and then recommended (the results) to other artists,” Ray said.

Figuring out how to paint a soccer ball was another issue.

“It was really something (to paint) because it’s round,” Ray said, chuckling.

Dinnen said he stuck with what he knew for his contribution – dogs. His “Dogs in Space,” adorned with a tongue-wagging canine, also makes an impression.

“I’m always just trying to have some fun,” Dinnen said.

Hot Italian is located at 1627 16th St., Sacramento. Bidding for each piece starts at $100. Suggested retail prices range from $250 to $800. The auction can be accessed online at www.biddingowl.com/ArtoftheBall.