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It’s been a stressful year, bookended by fireworks in Washington, D.C. and fires too close to home.

More often than not, I’ve found my neck and shoulders tensed, my stomach churning and my language peppered with expletives I don’t normally spew in conversations with friends and family.

Thankfully, just when I needed them most, the performing, visual and media arts were here to rescue me during 2017. How truly grateful I am for Napa Valley’s vibrant, ever-growing arts and cultural scene.

Case in point, here are a few observations that hit home this past year:

— Our venues are flourishing:

The Uptown, Lincoln Theater, Silo’s, Lucky Penny Community Arts Center, Cameo Cinema, Blue Note Napa and Jarvis Conservatory offer year-round rosters of local, regional and national fare. We now have more eclectic choices to experience high-quality music, dance, theater, film and comedy, virtually in our own backyards.

— Musicians who call Napa Valley “home” have greater opportunities to perform locally:

In its seventh year on the last Sunday in July, Porchfest presented musical talent across hundreds of outdoor “stages” in and around downtown Napa surpassing organizers’ projections in attendance and numbers of groups wanting to perform. Napa City Nights – free Friday night summer concerts — celebrated anniversary year 10, and “Napa Live: Inside and Out” featured 40 musical acts at 30 locations.

All of the above were free to listeners — a dynamic that will hopefully gain more exposure and paid bookings for these generous musicians in the future. Thanks to BottleRock, local musicians are often booked as opening acts and play on other festival stages during the three-day event.

— Kids of all ages can now find hands-on arts experiences through a variety of no- and low-cost ways:

No matter what artistic interests aspiring young artists may have, there are ample outlets to nurture their budding creativity. Lucky Penny, Cafeteria Kids Theater, Napa Valley College, Nimbus Arts, Dive into Color, Studio G, Napa Regional Dance – the list is long and expands annually. One of the best online resources to find information on all things kids is napavalleykid.com, a comprehensive, weekly resource calendar created by parent Holly Krassner Dawson especially for parents.

—The continuing generosity of donors, funders, the food and wine industries, plus countless individuals who value the arts remains steadfast:

Community Projects, The Gasser Foundation, service clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis, The Doctors Company, Arts Council Napa Valley, Marketplace, Napa Valley Community Foundation, Mechanics Bank, Napa County Arts and Culture Grants, board members of nonprofit arts organizations – these are just a few of the amazing local businesses, organizations and residents who open their hearts to help enhance the quality of life for all residents.

— Our public (and private) schools are jam-packed with arts programs:

Thanks to an arts master plan in place, arts integration is a part of every school’s curriculum throughout Napa County. Our high schools bring plays, musicals, choral and orchestra concerts, a chalk festival and an annual a cappella competition so popular it sells out 1,200 seats well in advance. The Oxbow School enrolls high school juniors and seniors from all over the U.S., and Napa Valley College brings a busy season of performing arts featuring faculty, students and residents.

— Look around – art is everywhere:

Ten original light installations illuminated the sky for nine nights this month in the first “Napa Lighted Art Festival.” Gordon Huether completed large, cheeky (or tongue-in-cheek) sculptures for the newly-opened Archer Hotel (“The Basket”) and two for CIA-Copia (“Is that Bob and Margrit” and “Fork”). The Rail Arts District (RAD) completed its fourth, visually striking mural (on a fence!) by artist Mikey Kelly, and new public art works are soon to find permanent homes on Dwight Murray Plaza, a pair of traffic roundabouts and ultimately along the Vine Trail.

I have no doubt that my stress will return in 2018, but my fallback position is chock full of enlightening, artsy and fun ways to enjoy all the culture that Napa Valley offers — with more to come.

Happy New Year!

Evy Warshawski is co-director of E & M Presents, bringing Doktor Kaboom in “Lookout, SCIENCE is Coming,” Sun. Jan. 14. For information, visit EandMPresents.org.

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