Arts community rallies to raise relief funds for Sonoma County fire victims

Sonoma County’s artists, musicians, actors and comics pitch in to help fire victims.|

Recent wildfires have marked the lives of tens of thousands of people all over Sonoma County and other parts of California, leaving bewildered survivors to piece their worlds back together.

The arts community is just as impacted as everyone else, but artists have an added resource to aid in everyone’s recovery - their talent.

The results will be showcased in benefit shows and concerts, fundraising art projects and a variety other efforts in the coming days and weeks.

Longtime Forestville mixed-media artist Gerald Huth responded to the fires with two 16-by-20-inch collages he titled “Inferno I” and “Inferno II,” the first in a series, made of news photos of fire and partially burned drawings.

“I just felt I had to do something about the fires,” Huth said. “Art is something that can relieve pain or bring some sort of solace or joy, or at least express what we’re all feeling.” Like some 140 other Sonoma County artists, Huth will participate this weekend and next weekend in the annual Art Trails open studio tour. He intends to sell his two “Inferno” pieces to benefit victims of the multiple blazes that besieged the county starting last week, and other artists also plan to donate proceeds from their sales of art during Art Trails.

Art Trails, sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, also is accepting donations for fire relief for artists of all kinds. A separate fund also has been set up for Art Trails artists who suffered personal losses from the fires.

“We have seven Art Trails artists who have lost their homes and studios,” said Linda Galletta, Sonoma County Art Trails administrator.

Painter Suzanne Edminster created her acrylic-on-wood fire-inspired, “Ashes,” work the day of the start of the wildfires. She had been nearing the end of five-day retreat with 10 other artists at Mountain Home Ranch in Calistoga, when fire broke out the night of Oct. 8. Her piece also will be on sale during Art Trails to benefit fire relief.

“I just think artists are always, in some sense, emotional and psychological first-responders,” Edminster said.

Art Trails is self-guided tour with visitors picking which studios they want to visit, and creating their own routes. Postponed from the original opening Oct. 13, Art Trails will run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and again Oct. 28-29. For maps and other information:

Visual artists aren’t the only ones who have responded to the crisis. Musicians, actors and comedians also plan fundraisers for fire relief. Some previously scheduled events have been repurposed to raise money for fire relief. Here’s a sample of benefits scheduled so far:

The Alexander Valley Film Society is hosting “Movies to Benefit Fire Relief and Healing” through Sunday. All proceeds will go to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County’s Resilience Fund. There are 27 films in all. Highlights include “The Ballad of Lefty Brown,” 6 tonight at the Clover Theater in Cloverdale, $25 or pay what you can; “The Graduate,” 7 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Oddfellows Hall in Geyserville, bring your own dinner, no-host bar, $12 or pay what you can; “Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall,” 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg, $12 or pay what you can.

The “Peacetown Fire Benefit,” hosted by the Mr. Music Foundation, runs from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Admission is free and all ages are welcome. Dance to live music. Donations will be accepted for the Redwood Credit Union Fire Fund. The evening includes food, beer, wine and a silent auction.

Dance at the Ballroom in Rohnert Park at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and your entry fees will all go the Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Fund. Cost: $10 per person minimum. Donations also will be accepted. Waltz lessons start at 7:45 p.m. 707-586-1136,

The Evil Comedy troupe will present “HaHaHalloween 2: Evil Gives Back” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa. The show is a benefit for fire victims, and first responders get in free (register in advance at; $10 minimum donation for others. There will also be an auction, and prizes include a performance by the troupe in your home or other chosen spot.

The Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg will hold its annual “Dancing Under the Stars at the Raven” fundraiser at 7:30 p.m, Nov. 4 ($35-$45) with a preview at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 ($10-$20). Donations made now can be directed to go directly to Sonoma County Fire Relief. 707-433-6335,

The 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa is replacing a previously scheduled play at its Studio Theater with a new cabaret show titled “Santa Rosa Strong: Recovery and Strength Through Song,” Performers will engage the audience in sing-alongs and sharing stories. The tentative dates are Nov. 10-12, but check at 707-523-4285 or for confirmation.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival will present a special Jazz Jam Benefit Concert from 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg. The new event bumps the Healdsburg Jazz 20th anniversary gala, originally scheduled for the same weekend, into next Janurary. “We’ve decided to postpone it, and instead raise funds for Sonoma County’s fire victims,” said the festival’s artistic director, Jessica Felix.

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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