Smith: Artwork and words make magic at Sebastopol’s burgeoning art center

Something artistically ingenious is happening in Sebastopol, and it’s being noticed.

Folks at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts borrowed from local collectors 42 pieces of art. Then they invited each of ?42 local poets to spend some time with one of the artworks, randomly assigned, and to write a poem inspired by it.

The result is “Reverberations: A Visual Conversation.” The melding of poetry and all manner of splendid art - paintings, photography, prints, sculptures, ceramics - is mind-expanding and incites conversation.

Several events accompanying the exhibition have been well attended, and local teachers have so far arranged for about 600 students to come experience the loaned art and the poetry that it engendered.

The art includes two Picasso ceramics and works of Enrique Chagoya, Viola Frey, Francis Bacon, Robert Mapplethorpe and Joan Miro.

The art center’s director, Anjana Utarid, singles out the bronze, 1923 “Portrait of Gertrude Stein” made by Michael Brenner and loaned by Santa Rosa art lover Jack Leissring.

Of all the likenesses of Stein that were produced, Utarid said, that bronze was Stein’s favorite. The poem exhibited alongside it was written by west county’s Barbara Hirschfeld, whose work has appeared in anthologies of the Redwood Writers and the Sitting Room.

Within her poem, “Top Knot,” Hirschfeld writes:

a rough hewn piece of bronze

harsh eye tender eye

elegant nose pointing to lower lip

lower lip determined

determined not to be anyone else

a ponderous sculpture

gnarled icon knotted on top

A benefactor of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts underwrote the production of a book that includes all of the artworks and poems. It’s available for a donation of $20 or more.

There’s no admission fee to the gallery within the Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Building or to the final allied event, an evening of short films on Picasso, Cage, Julie Mehretu and other of the involved artists. It’s at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

This wonder of an exhibition closes Dec. 2.


HEAVY LIFTING: Retired attorney Teresa de la O of Cotati, who’s 81, was just in Vegas. She didn’t go to feed the slots or see the Blue Man Group.

Teresa, the widow of PD newsman John Purroy, set a world record for a deadlift by a woman of her approximate age and weight. While standing, she bent, gripped and lifted to her waist a barbell weighing ?143 pounds, then set it back down. Why?

“It makes me giddy happy,” she said.


SINCE THE BURGLARY at his music-lesson studio, 80-year-old Bill Eakin has been busier than a one-man band running a marathon.

He’s talked to a lot of people who’ve offered him comfort and assistance since someone stole from his Pick’in Shack in Rincon Valley more than ?20 of the guitars, mandolins ?and other instruments he’s saved throughout his life.

A woman phoned from Hawaii to tell him she would ship him a replacement Fender Stratocaster.

“Another lady is the same way,” Bill said. “She’s going to send me an acoustic guitar that was her father’s.”

That’s his heart that we hear singing.

You can contact columnist Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine