During 2015, the arts environment was jam-packed with recovery, renewal and a welcome sense of optimism.
Not only do we now have a thriving nonprofit arts community, but corporate, foundation and individual contributions are on the rise, further enhancing the quality of our cultural lives — and choices — in the Napa Valley.
With that in mind and in no particular order, kudos to the following with apologies to those not mentioned (due only to sheer lack of space):
— New kids on the block: Two local museums have newly hired executive directors relocating to the valley — Phil Kohlmetz (Napa Valley Museum) and Robert Sain (di Rosa). Also settling in to Napa for her new position is Dr. Cathryn Wilkinson, dean of the Arts and Humanities Division at Napa Valley College. Welcome to the “hood.”
— Time flies when you’re having fun: Porchfest celebrated its fifth free music celebration last July with more bands on more porches and entertaining more attendees. The all-volunteer organizers worry that this increasingly popular event may become a victim of its own success, necessitating neighborhood street closures to ensure the safety of walkers, bikers, pets and motorists. Smart folks — stay tuned.
— Hey, let’s put on a show: Not only did Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland arrive at this decision in “Babes in Arms,” local thespians Barry Martin and Taylor Bartolucci dreamed long term and realized a 7,200-square-foot, flexible space for training, education, rehearsal, practice, performance and presentation — the Lucky Penny Community Arts Center, which is celebrating its first anniversary. Bravo for ingenuity, determination and fundraising prowess.
— The play’s the thing: Eight stellar actors from England’s prestigious Globe Theatre brought the Bard’s genius to the CIA barrel room for four performances of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Watch for the upcoming roster of “Shakespeare400” anniversary events in 2016, as NapaShakes’ director Laura Rafaty and her team envisions the valley as a hub for world-class Shakespeare. Can’t wait!
— Festival fever: BottleRock, Festival del Sole, the Napa Valley Film Festival, Music in the Vineyards, the Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Concert Series — these multiday, multilayered events have garnered loyal local, regional and national followings and continue to bring panache, prestige and dollars. The challenges of sustaining, let alone profiting, from these year-round-planned, mega activities are huge. One invaluable factor in their bottom lines: a large cadre of volunteers who step up to give their time and commitment.
— Art for all: Dotting downtown Napa sidewalks and skyways, ARTwalk’s assemblage of adjudicated sculptures just gets better every two years! How fun to discover one you may have missed, like Peter Hazel’s snazzy mosaic, “Wave Bench” (near the entrance to Cole’s Chop House) — a perfect backdrop for that perfect selfie. Other public/private art treats completed this past year include: the stunning glass/tile octopus that hugs the commercial pizza oven in the new Ca’ Momi Osteria, designed and completed by Kristina Young; the 160-square-foot mosaic mural full of fluttering butterflies at Cope Family Center overseen by Nimbus Arts and created by Latina youth; the re-acquisition/relocation of “Fish On” thanks to arts patron Harry Price; and the long-awaited “refresh” of downtown Napa’s Latino Heritage Mural.
— At the end of the day: I’ve not lived in a community that is as generous as the Napa Valley. Annual charitable dollars and in-kind contributions, from across public/private sectors, to support nonprofit causes — the arts, social services, education, tourism and/or infrastructure – exceed those of much larger populations. We’re so lucky and very grateful — thank you.
Happy New Year!