Santa Rosa’s SOFA ‘hood to host Winterblast holiday festival

Rhiannon Pugh, 5, sprays bubbles in the air as she rides in a couch decorated as a bubble bath in the electric sofa parade during Winterblast at the South of A Street arts district in Santa Rosa, California on Saturday, November 14, 2015. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)


Tucked behind Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa lies a small town within the city, known to its denizens and devotees as the South of A Street arts district, or “SOFA.”

Every November, the neighborhood — home to a generous handful of art galleries, several restaurants and a live theater — stages its Winterblast festival, including art, food and performances.

The signature events at the free and cozy little arts festival are the two parades featuring — what else? — sofas on wheels.

Winterblast runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 18, with parades at 6 and 8 p.m. Live bands include the popular Hubbub Club, Soul Ska and Black Sheep Brass Band. Galleries up and down A Street will have art on display.

The goal of the A Street celebration, marking its 13th year, is to remind the public that there’s a lot going within the couple of blocks around the intersection of A Street and Sebastopol Avenue, not far from downtown.

“In this relatively undiscovered neighborhood in the heart of Santa Rosa, you’ll find a cauldron of creativity,” said Simmon Factor, owner of the Chroma Gallery at 312 S. A St., at a building that also includes 10 art studios. “You can meet and talk with talented artists.”

The cauldron of A Street has been bubbling more than ever this year. Factor plans to establish a new Santa Rosa Arts Center at the Chroma Gallery site in January, with exhibits, workshops and satellite classrooms.

Meanwhile, the Imaginists, the experimental theater ensemble based at 461 Sebastopol Ave., have launched a fundraising campaign to buy the building it has been housed in since 2008, currently owned by Santa Rosa artist Mario Uribe and his wife Liz.

Imaginists co-founders Amy Pinto and Brent Lindsay started their fund drive after learning that the building, which also includes nine studio spaces currently used by a dozen artists, was up for sale.

“We decided we wanted to keep art in the SOFA district,” Lindsay said. “We figured art made the district what it is, so we would put ourselves forward as the new owners of the building.”

The goal is to raise $350,000 for the theater’s share of the total cost of $1.2 million, to be supplemented by grant and loan funds. The theater has raised $250,000 so far — $235,000 from a Hewlett Foundation grant and $15,000 from individual donors — and still needs another $100,000.

“We also been approved for two loans,” Lindsay explained. “One is for half a million dollars and the other is for $350,000. The organization that is really helping us is the Northern California Community Loan Fund. They do a lot of work with social justice groups.”

Social justice is the theme of much of the Imaginists’ work, with an emphasis on bilingual creative collaboration.

For Winterblast, artist Jessica Rasmussen will put together a visual arts exhibit in the Imaginists space.

The Imaginists collective, which develops its own original performance pieces, will be ready to welcome the public to view its latest work in progress at 8 p.m. Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 28-30. For information:

Long considered a rough neighborhood, the area between Santa Rosa Avenue and South A Street has evolved over the past quarter-century or so, neighborhood leaders said. The process has speeded up in recent years with addition of the Criminal Baking Co. and restaurants like the Spinster Sisters. Las Palmas and the Naked Pig, and the recent renovation of the nearby Astro Motel.

“We’re getting a lot of new visitors,” said Winterblast organizer James Podchernikoff, owner of the Atlas Coffee Company in the alley behind Gallery 300 at 300 S. A St. The Atlas Coffee courtyard serves as one of the event’s live music venues.

“It seems like we’re getting recognized in a way that hasn’t happened before,” said Podchernikoff, who credits the addition of the new businesses for SOFA’s higher profile. “People are curious.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or On Twitter @danarts.