Local artists plan to show their work during National Arts Drive
Art is all about communication. Without someone to see and appreciate the artist’s work, the process is incomplete. That poses a problem during the coronavirus pandemic.
Striving to overcome the isolation of sheltering in place, visual and performing artists all over the continent will reach out to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. June 20 with the National Arts Drive. Artists will display their work and show off their skills outside homes and businesses for people to view as they drive by or stop briefly, and Sonoma County visual and performing artists plan to be part of the event.
“This drive was started to show art during shelter in place and share it with the public in a safe environment,” said sculptor T Barny, who will open his sculpture garden and gallery to visitors in Alexander Valley, where his large sculptures of stone and bronze will be easy to see even from 6 feet away or more.
“Sculpture is perfect for this event,” Barny said. “People can drive through the sculpture garden on our circular driveway. People also can park and walk through at a safe social distance, with masks on.”
Visitors can access a map of artists’ locations at NationalArtsDrive.com; a final map will be posted on June 20. The free National Arts Drive was organized by the Los Angeles-based artists’ collective RAW: natural born artists and includes artists in Mexico and Canada.
RAW originally announced the event for this Saturday but decided this week to postpone until June 20, citing “this incredibly emotional time” across the nation, amid public protests following the death of George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis. Some local artists planning to participate in the event will honor the new date, while others remain committed to this ?Saturday. Some plan to do both dates.
Barny plans to go ahead with his original plans for Saturday but also participate in the rescheduled National Arts Drive on June 20. His studio and gallery are located at ?4370 Pine Flat Road in Healdsburg.
“We are going to open this weekend since we’ve done a bunch of planning and social media outreach,” said Barny’s business manager, Wendy Dayton.
For many local artists, the drive-by event is a logical extension of Sonoma County’s two popular annual self-guided artists’ studio tours: Art Trails and Art at the Source, both administered by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
“I put out the word to all Art Trails artists immediately,” said Sebastopol painter Gen Zorich, co-chair of the Art Trails steering committee. “Around 50 of them showed interest and a few of the Art at the Source artists, too.”
Zorich plans to show her work Saturday at her studio at 7440 Woodland Ave., Sebastopol.
“I have made the decision to put out my art anyway this weekend to provide beauty to the neighborhood, and I will also participate on the 20th,” she said.
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts has offered its parking lot for the National Arts Drive display on June 20.
“People haven’t been able to see art during the lockdown,” Zorich said. “When you see art in person, it’s different. I know people are feeling antsy. It’ll be good for people to go out to something safely. You’re not crowding anybody.”
The opportunity National Arts Drive offers is especially important now, she added, since Art Trails, usually held in October, has been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The art studio tour traditionally welcomes the public into artists’ individual workspaces, which is still a concern at this point. Art at the Source, usually held in June, already has been rescheduled for next year.
Not all of the creative people participating in National Arts Drive are visual artists. Longtime North Bay journalist and publicist Karen Pierce Gonzales has written “Death Fog,” a 5½-minute solo play to be performed outdoors by her husband, actor David Gonzalez, at the southwest corner of A Street and Sebastopol Avenue in Santa Rosa. Show times are 1:15, 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. June 20.
“It is adapted from a piece of fiction that I wrote about an Italian farmer in Rohnert Park whose lemon trees start producing limes because of pesticides,” she said. “David will be performing right next to a lemon tree in a galvanized tub. Lemons are key to the monologue.”
The performance is not actually a drive-by experience, since people will have to park and walk; but the short shows, presented by Santa Rosa Arts Center, will be true to the spirit of National Arts Drive.
“There’s enough room for a 15- to 20-person audience for each performance, and we will put tape on the ground for social distancing cues,” she said. “National Arts Drive is not just for the visual arts. They’re scheduling performances across the country, too.”
Last month, the Petaluma Arts Center initiated Art Apart, a drive-by art display program with an interactive map available at petalumaartscenter.org that shows where artists have posted their work outside their homes for public view.
“We have over 30 participants in Art Apart at the moment. Given the overlap between the National Arts Drive and Art Apart, we’ve encouraged artists in the latter to participate in the former, and several of the artists have confirmed that they’ve done that,” said the center’s program director, Jonathan Marlow.
Sonoma artist Kathleen Truax has been displaying her paintings in front of her house every weekend since early April. She plans to take a break from that, but she’ll participate June 20 in the National Arts Drive.
“What I like about the idea is that it is a rare opportunity for artists to show their work at a time when galleries and live performances by dancers and musicians and other performers are not taking place,” Truax said.
“It seems possible that the freshness of the events and the opportunity for the public to meet the artists, with no financial outlay for either, may be so popular that these events happen regularly after the virus is no longer a threat.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at email@example.com. Read his Arts blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.