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Sonoma County Museum plans downtown graffiti art project

  • Artist Carlos de Villasante paints the side of the Sonoma County Museum's Annex along 7th Street in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, September 18, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Graffiti isn't generally encouraged in downtown Santa Rosa, but the Sonoma County Museum has hired three local artists to decorate the outside walls of one of its buildings with their colorful paintings.

Three artists have been working this week on the former Conklin Brothers flooring company building, at Seventh and B streets, where the museum plans a future art gallery.

"The building is sitting empty and in need of renovation. I decided to turn the exterior walls into an art installation, and put out a call for artist proposals," said Diane Evans, executive director of the museum.

Sonoma County Museum Graffiti Art

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The museum chose painters Julia Davis, whose work is signed "Bud Snow" and has been exhibited extensively up and down the West Coast; Carlos de Villasante, an associate art professor at Sonoma State University; and Judy Kennedy, a member of the City of Santa Rosa Art in Public Places board.

Their new artwork is expected to remain in place on the building's exterior through the end of the year. The museum is using the word graffiti to promote the project, but the artists see themselves as muralists.

"I'm not a graffiti artist. I just consider myself an artist," de Villasante said Wednesday afternoon as he began work on a series of large pictures of human heads to be painted on the wall of the building that faces Seventh Street.

"These are the kinds of images that inspired me when I was growing up in Mexico City with the murals there," de Villasante said. "I've always had a fascination with painted walls."

Davis created fanciful characters she calls "composite creatures," with randomly mismatched heads, bodies and feet, for the west end of the building.

"I love the Sonoma County Museum, because they're providing opportunities for emerging artists and public art," Davis said. "I like the idea of artists communicating with a broad public."

Since 2001, the museum has owned the building at Seventh and B streets, just east of its longtime home in the former city post office at 425 Seventh St.


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