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Petaluma features North Bay artists in virtual Art in the Park event

If you want an example of the historic ways the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders affect every corner of daily life, consider this: for the first time in more than 60 years, the annual Art in the Park sale and show won’t happen at Petaluma’s Walnut Park. Instead, like many other summer events, it’s moving online.

The annual sale and show, founded by the Petaluma Arts Association in 1957, has drawn thousands of art enthusiasts to Petaluma’s Walnut Park every summer. This year, for the first time, it will be a monthlong online exhibition. It opens Saturday at petalumaartsassociation.org and will feature art, fine crafts, music, poetry and performances. People can see and buy artworks, music, books and more from the participating artists.

“It evolved out of COVID-19, because we were going to have to cancel our event,” said Connie Heizer of the association’s board of directors.

Although participation always has been open to artists outside Sonoma County, this year the association specifically invited artists from Marin and Napa counties to take part.

So far, 140 artists have signed up, mostly from Sonoma County but with some from the other counties, too.

“It’s nice to get some new blood,” Heizer said.

Not only did the organizers expand the geographic outreach of their event, but they also broadened its artistic scope.

“We’re soliciting all forms of art,” Heizer said. “It’s been strictly visual arts until now. There’s a new sense of creativity. We are still accepting applications, and we’re looking for musicians.”

While it’s disappointing to miss a year of holding the event outdoors, Heizer is looking at the silver lining.

“As an artist, it’s wonderful to be at the park, but you have to schlep all the stuff over there. It’s a lot of work,” she said.

Like many arts groups experimenting with event formats during the shutdown, the association may continue hosting online events even after live mass gatherings are allowed again.

“It’s possible our group will host these again in the future,” Heizer said. “This is a launch.”

The free event encourages patrons to buy or commission art.

“There is no fee to participate this year,” Heizer said. “We’re doing this for the good of the community.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

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