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Dave Warner makes prom an artistic affair 


Patrick Brien

The Press-Enterprise                    April 25, 2013 

This is prom season. The event has achieved iconic status through its portrayal in movies, television and other forms of popular culture. With tuxedos, evening gowns, limousines, flowers and photographs, the prom is designed to make memories.


Riverside resident Dave Warner has turned his memories into a unique artistic event for all ages. Since 2002, Riverside Prom has been evolving from a backyard affair into a much-anticipated tradition that has rapidly taken on an iconic status of its own.


“It started with some friends sitting around talking,” says Warner. “The girls were complaining about having prom and bridesmaids dresses that they only wore once and that are now wasting space in their closets. So I suggested that we throw our own prom. Everyone agreed and we decided to go all out.”


That first year was simple, with their prom being held at a friend’s house. “The rule was you had to pick up your date at their parents’ house,” explains Warner. “We even all met for dinner beforehand at Romano’s restaurant in Riverside. We decided to call the event ‘Reflections.’ We had cheesy prom photos with balloons, dancing, and of course named a prom king and queen.”


It went so well that they decided to do it again the next year on a Friday the 13th, introducing a theme. “Gothic Prom” was the beginning of growth into an event has gotten bigger and better each year.


Riverside Prom has expanded into a prom-themed art show held in conjunction with the May Arts Walk. Hosted by Back to the Grind, the independent downtown Riverside coffee shop known for its commitment to the local arts scene, it serves as a showcase for bands, DJs, performers and other live entertainment. The immersive, themed environment includes costumes, visual art, videos, installations and dancing, as well as the requisite prom photos and prom king and queen.


Past proms have included “Slumber Party Slaughter” (B-movies), the “8-Bit Prom” (video games), and 2012’s post apocalyptic “Promageddon.” The theme for this year is “Once Upon a Prom — Fairy Vs. Scary Tales,” which will be held on May 11 at Back to the Grind.


Warner did not envision the growth or popularity of the event, nor did he imagine that he’d be staging it for this many years.


“The fun people have motivates and encourages me to continue the event year after year,” he says. “I love making the artwork and the video commercials. I can’t believe the things I can convince my friends to do, and to do it just for the fun of it. I see it as a testament to how much everyone enjoys the prom experience.”


Warner believes that the inclusive nature of the event is a large part of its ongoing popularity. Everyone who attends becomes part of the work.


“Whatever your talent is, there is a place for it at Riverside Prom,” he says. “It is always interesting to see all the great costumes people create. I am repeatedly blown away by the creativity and enthusiasm people bring to the event each year. This event has also created a community and place for people to do something out of the norm and express themselves. My friend Elizabeth Aamot, (who was at the very first prom) always tells me that Riverside Prom is her favorite holiday.”


Warner explains that there are too many collaborators and supporters to list. Darren Conkerite, the owner of Back to the Grind, however, is one person that Warner feels the event could not live without.


“He gives me the freedom and support to let me do all the crazy things that come up in my head each year and provides a great event location,” Warner says. “Also Division 9 and Rob’s Vintique have been a constant support for the last 4 or 5 years. They are always willing to help.”


The visually striking imagery of the graphic design and commercials used in Riverside Prom’s marketing has always been a hallmark of the event.


“The first videos I made started with ‘Prom in Space’ and were filmed in the hallway of my house,” he says. “They were low budget yet fun to do. The next year I incorporated green screen and was able to put my friends into a video game world for the ‘8-bit Prom.’ For the last two years I have to give most of the credit to Ray Litkenhaus who did the majority of the work on the videos. I filmed the footage, but he worked his magic to give them a real professional look. All the great graphics were created by him.”


Born in Fontana, Warner has been a Riverside resident for the past 10 years. He graduated with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Creative Writing from UC Riverside.


“I started doing artwork because it was fun and I enjoyed helping friends design artwork for band logos, albums, magazines, etc.,” says Warner. “Where I thrived was making personalized gifts for friends and family. I’ve made custom dolls, songs, posters, lamps, skateboards, and so on in an attempt to give unique personalized gifts.”


In college, Warner’s art began to focus more on photography, evolving to include Photograms, which is photography without the use of a camera. He began doing graphic design when helping to create ads and covers for Digress Magazine, a local Riverside indie magazine created by his friend, Annie Knight. Warner now works as a professional marketer and graphic designer for the Outdoor Channel in Temecula.


Besides traditional photography, Warner combines photography and his drawing skills with a 3D process called Chromodepth, a process of manipulating the color spectrum to produce a synthetic 3D effect. His work has been exhibited at the Riverside Art Museum, Division 9, Back to the Grind, the SCA Project Gallery and the Anime Expo in LA.


Warner hopes to continue improving both his art and Riverside Prom, making things bigger and more elaborate each year.


“I appreciate everyone who helps out and makes Prom possible,” he says. “It takes a group effort for it to happen year after year.”


For more information on Riverside Prom, visit their website at or on Facebook at


For more information about the Artist Spotlight, contact the Riverside Arts Council at 951 680-1345 or info@RiversideArts The Riverside Arts Council is a private, nonprofit corporation whose mission is “to provide, develop, support and sustain the arts.” It annually ranks as one of the top local arts agencies in the state through the California Arts Council’s State/Local Partner Program. Established in 1977, it is Riverside County’s central source for arts-related services, information, education and outreach. Programs include arts education, exhibitions, technical assistance, marketing and convening of collaborative projects that connect groups and communities throughout the region. Visit and sign up for the 15 Favorite Things to Do in Riverside.

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