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Muralist creates new work at Fulton Crossing Gallery inspired by the pandemic

After eight months of closed venues and canceled events, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, we can still take comfort in one fact: We can go outside.

In that spirit, muralist Rachel Brooks of Glen Ellen finished creating a new work last month on an exterior wall of the Fulton Crossing Gallery on River Road in Fulton.

“It’s a really fun mural,” Brooks said. “I painted the figure of a woman. Then I splattered paint on her with a toothbrush, a large brush and a hand broom.”

The image was inspired by playful encounter with two other artists who, like Brooks, maintain a studio at Fulton Crossing. From a safe 6 feet away, Christina Arcila of Floral Design splattered paint on Brooks, then photographer Tiffany Burke took a picture of her. It was a reaction to being isolated in their studios, Brooks explained.

“To me, it’s about artists pushing through to control the chaos during a time of all this craziness,” Brooks said.

When Fulton Crossing Gallery owners Rami and Sandy Batarseh spotted the photo online, it seemed to fit their need for mural.

“It was really organic,” Sandy Batarseh said. “We were looking for a mural but we weren’t sure what design we wanted.”

Brooks’ creative interaction with the other artists is true to the spirit of the gallery, Batarseh said.

“The artists at Fulton Crossing are (here) to collaborate and to inspire others,” she explained. “We want people to know the arts are alive.”

The mural will help pass that enthusiasm on to the public, the owners hope.

“We wanted people to see from the main thoroughfare on River Road, going back and forth to the wineries, that this an art place,” Batarseh said.

Brooks’ mural is the second work to go up on the gallery’s outside wall facing River Road. Last year, Philippines-based artist Hersley Casero painted one of his “Laughing Boy” murals there. Next, the owners plan to mount a billboardlike print by Graton painter Tony Spiers, who has a studio at Fulton Crossing.

Like many venues, Fulton Crossing closed in March in response to the virus but reopened in July, under strict safety protocol, requiring social distancing and face masks. Now it’s open to visitors three days a week, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

The gallery opened its holiday “Small Works Show” Nov. 3, with a dozen of its resident artists offering two works each for sale, priced from $100 to $1,000.

“We wanted a show to highlight the holidays,” Batarseh explained. “A lot of people want a piece of art but don’t want the size or price that goes with larger artwork.”

To help keep art and artists in the public mind during the pandemic, Batarseh and her husband, who bought the former warehouse property in 2012, also have posted online profiles of their studio artists.

“During the pandemic, we have to look for creative ways to show people what the artists are doing,” she said. “Art can help people cope with disaster.”

Brooks also believes her work as a painter, including the Black Lives Matter mural she created at the Petaluma Regional Library in collaboration with more than a dozen other artists last August and September, has the to potential to inspire people.

“As a single mother, I always have been very outspoken about the rights of women and others,” she said. “We must work for inclusion and diversity.”

Brooks said she’s grateful for Fulton Crossing’s efforts to put art in front of the public despite the limitations brought on by the pandemic.

“Now people can see and buy art again,” she said. “The arts don’t die.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

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