Some mid-sized cities are lucky enough to have a rustic, appealing venue for intimate concerts and performances.
But the fact that a city of 6,000 can sustain one is extraordinary.
Started by the indomitable Nancy Garden in 1985, the White Barn is still going strong today under the leadership of her son, David Garden Jr., offering live music, lectures, theatrical performances, miniature film festivals, poetry readings and art fairs.
Since he’s taken the reins from his mother, he’s tried to sprinkle in shows that appeal to his generation and to younger folks. So although he won’t be doing away with the baroque ensembles, you can expect to see more acts like last month’s Dirty Cello, which featured quirky cello arrangements of blues, rock and even heavy metal tunes.
The venue’s unique location in the Ag Preserve just outside the St. Helena city limits precludes it from being a profit-making venture, and the White Barn is a nonprofit in the most literal sense – nobody collects any salaries, and each show’s proceeds benefit another nonprofit. Garden gave us a list of 52 nonprofits the White Barn has donated to since 1985, totaling about $450,000.
The last event of 2017 is the White Barn Winter Fair on Friday, Dec. 8 through Sunday, Dec. 10, a fundraiser for Napa and Sonoma fire relief. Friday’s preview night, starting at 6 p.m., has a required donation of $15. The next two days are free to enter, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thirteen local artists will exhibit and sell their work: fine art, toys, games, jewelry, cards, ceramics, glassware, woodwork, metalwork, textiles, honey and granola – if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted gift that doesn’t say “Made in China,” this is your chance.
Supporting the Winter Fair has a compounding effect, since you’re supporting fire relief, local artists, and a venue that supports other nonprofits throughout the year. You’re doing your part to shore up the community, and you’re walking away with a great gift for a loved one (or yourself).
David Jr. and his sister Anne, an artist, are passionate about what they do, and their enthusiasm is infectious. The Garden family is an example of how a single committed and talented family can enrich our community through an investment of time and energy.
David Jr. told us the White Barn is “on an even keel.” Attracting younger audience members is always a challenge, but the last three shows were sold out. The venue is moving gracefully into the 21st century, recently installing heating and air conditioning and introducing online ticketing through brownpapertickets.com.
Next year expect a brass quartet and string quartet from Pacific Union College, a rowdy Irish folk band from Napa called The Sorry Lot, a “night of beatnik goofiness,” and a performance of Leonard Nimoy’s play “Vincent,” about Vincent Van Gogh. With his typical enthusiasm, David Jr. told us he wants to get local students to produce their own Van Gogh-inspired art for the latter event, which sounds like a wonderful idea.
Sustaining the White Barn isn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be possible without the whole town’s support. So come to the White Barn and do what you can to polish one of our brightest jewels.
Learn more at thewhitebarn.org.