Jul 29, 2018
Now in its eighth year, Artwalk is distinctly different from other open studio events. In a once-forgotten corner of downtown Santa Rosa, a stroll through this tree-lined city block gives art lovers a unique opportunity to interact with 25 local artists. Artwalk takes place in the SOFA neighborhood Saturday and Sunday, August 4 and 5, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open studios will feature work in a variety of mediums and styles.
Artists who have moved into the studio space more recently, like Chris Beards and Bill Shelley from Blasted Art Gallery, have put on ambitious and thoughtful shows which stretch the boundaries of Sonoma County’s art scene. They have brought an influx of new people to the neighborhood, and this energy has added to a palpable ambiance of excitement and enthusiasm.
“While designing this year’s Artwalk catalog, I was struck by how strong so much of the art has become over the last year,” says Kristen Throop, an artist at Backstreet Studios and Gallery. “Paintings that were cautious investigations are now much more fully developed. Colors are stronger; the voices are clearer and more distinct.”
Throop described the progress made by Corrine Haverinen in the last year. Taking a huge creative leap, Haverinen recently mounted a solo show.
“Having a studio has pushed me to work more often and more diligently, which has the effect of moving me further down the road creatively. I have been able to try out more of the ideas banging around in my head,” said Haverinen. “The studio has also offered a way for me to present my work to the public, causing me to work out various ways of framing them. Having a one-person show was a great opportunity that pushed me to work harder. It was so powerful to see all my work together presented in a professional way, and the response was very gratifying.”
Max Dubois is an artist and printmaker who has been part of this community since 1996. She stumbled upon a studio for rent while walking through the neighborhood 20 years ago. Back then it was a small group of people that were simply going about making their art. Growth happened mostly by word of mouth, and it happened quite rapidly as there has never been a lack of artists needing affordable space to create.
“I suppose it’s the most organic growth you can find,” says Dubois. “I don’t think there is any one thing I can point to, people just came together and talked about what was going on in the neighborhood and how we could work things out in a way that allowed us to still exist.”
From there they worked with the city and different local organizations with the goal of raising their visibility as a community of artists. They offered space to hold music and theatrical events—an interesting mix pulling the arts together—and as growth occurred everyone has benefited.
SOFA is a community of people who care about art and the power of the creative process. The neighborhood has grown into something unique and wonderful, largely due to a core group dedicated to the exploration of art and culture. This community has been built by a combined wealth of knowledge and interest paired with meaningful gestures of kindness.
There are undertones of additional significance woven throughout this year’s Artwalk. In a post-fire Santa Rosa, SOFA’s relevance is amplified. Many of the neighborhood’s artists and shop owners were affected by last fall’s devastating fires. While speaking with people at her studio, Dubois says that three to four times a week the conversation turns to the loss experienced due to the fires. They are coming in and looking at the art as a relief for the soul.
“Art makes existence more tolerable because art is mostly from the soul; art is real,” says Dubois.
Beyond the opportunity to view compelling work created by a distinctive cast of personalities, Artwalk is a chance to support the SOFA community. Interact with artists, enjoy fare from nearby eateries, and explore the eccentric crazy quilt of a neighborhood that is SOFA. The event is free to attend. Additional information at sofasantarosa.com.
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