OPaf (Other Places art fair) makes way into Sonoma County
Artwork folded into paper airplanes will soar in the air. Attendees will witness impromptu woodwind performances. Some will take wheelbarrow rides around the park. Others will listen to amplified soundscapes.
Here’s the gist: all your human senses will activate. Be ready.
The five-year contemporary art fair, OPaf (Other Places art fair), which allows for unconventional art projects and spaces to exist without boundaries, is making its grand debut May 14 at Santa Rosa’s Juilliard Park.
Twenty interactive and immersive art projects from artists in Sonoma County, San Francisco and Los Angeles that span sculptures, artworks, published materials, artist designed flags and sound installations will be presented outside for attendees to explore.
“In this space, artwork is doing what it’s supposed to do — present an idea, start a conversation, move people, art can just be ... art. We’re reminded of why we create art in the first place,” said K Knittel, founder of OPaf. “It’s magical when we can simply experience art without looking at it as a commodity.”
Unlike traditional art fairs that feed off the sales of artists’ work, participants can present their art projects without the pressure of selling their work to those attending.
“OPaf eliminates factors that come into play at traditional art fairs,” Knittel said. “What happens when artists aren’t worried about selling their art and no one is trying to sell you something? People can experience art in as pure a sense as possible.”
The “art booths” also don’t have boundaries as attendees traversing the park will continuously stumble upon projects.
Some fair highlights are printed handouts by Sebastopol book collector Ben Kinmont’s publishing project, “Antinomian Press;” sound artist Jen Boyd will present an amplified tree soundscape, “Peptoc;” a hotline offering words of encouragement and wisdom by West Side Elementary students in Healdsburg will present an encouragement booth; and Miracle Plum will pour organic and bio-diverse wine.
“All these projects are about sharing with the public. We’re trying to create work that’s inviting and generous in nature,” Knittel said. “Come and leave with a free drawing or walk away with new ideas.”
Local artists help make OPaf a reality
In 2021, Knittel explored the idea with local artists Jeremy Ehling and Nathan Azhderian, who each operate an art space in Sonoma County and presented at past OPaf events of bringing the fair to the North Bay. It was then clear it needed to actualize.
“There’s a lot of young people in Sonoma County who are interested in contemporary art that want more events like this to happen,” said Ehling, founder of STABLE, a Sebastopol exhibition space. “It brings in a lot of different generations of artists, too.”
Many ideas, much like Knittel’s that challenge societal norms, begin with a spark of inspiration.
Knittel, a California Institute of the Arts graduate, who often created alternative art spaces started a blog called “Other Places” in 2016 with an intention of finding people in San Pedro creating other alternative art spaces.
“I often reflected on the meaning of presenting artwork outside traditional systems like art galleries and art fairs. I thought about that often,” Knittel explained.
A few months later, Knittel planned to promote the blog at a “Human Resources” event in Los Angeles, an event for independent contemporary arts groups to mingle and share ideas.
It was after that event that Knittel’s idea to create an event for people to gather and experience art and share ideas with each other was born.
In 2018, OPaf’s first fair was held at a former U.S. Army base at Angels Gate Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Knittel plans to make OPaf North, funded by participant fees and attendee and supporter donations, an annual spring weekend event held in the North Bay.
“Seeing where the exchanges between all of these organizations will lead is exciting,” said Azhderian, founder of Santa Rosa project space Escolar. “I’m excited to see how it all develops.”
You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at firstname.lastname@example.org. @searchingformya on Twitter.