Hitting the ‘Trail

ARTrails keeps studios open plus Artspace404

the arts | stage |

Photograph by Joseph McDonald

By Gretchen Giles

N ow in its 23rd year, the annual ARTrails open studios tour ushers some 6,000 folks through artists’ working spaces in Sonoma County over a two-weekend period of time. That’s over 300 visitors per artist, not an inconsiderable stream of guests. Of note this year is the return of Sebastopol painter Alice Thibeau, who has spent the past two autumns in France and has returned with fresh work. We’re also intrigued by the digital printmaking, photography and collage of Petaluma artist Joseph McDonald, whose “Box of Heads” is shown above, and with the languid figures wrought by Santa Rosa painter Laura Hoffman. In fact, the South A Street area of Santa Rosa is a’brim with participating artists, and well worth an afternoon’s visit.

With 143 artists participating this year, ARTrails remains a huge economic engine. The Arts Council of Sonoma County, which organizes this annual treat, estimates that last year’s event resulted in over $600,000 in sales directly to our artists, no middle-man attached. The Arts Council gallery (404 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa; 707.579.ARTS) has work by every artist on show, and the Graton Gallery (9048 Graton Road, Graton; 707.829.8912) has a selection of participants’ work currently on exhibit for those who like to see samples up close before climbing in the car. ARTrails runs Saturday–Sunday, Oct. 11–12 and 18–19, from 10am to 5pm. The event is free and self-guided. To pick up a map and catalogue—this year featuring artist and collector profiles in a new and attractive format—visit www.artrails.org.

In other arts council news, the main gallery revamps next year as Artspace404 , a contemporary and cutting-edge space devoted to modern art, not necessarily by Sonoma County artists. Visual arts manager Nicole Lee says that the new concept should debut in January. “We’re opening with a members’ exhibit but we’re in the works on how to utilize that show in a way different than it has been for the past two years,” Lee explains. “What we’re trying to do is to push the boundaries a bit. We’d like to push our membership into challenging themselves.”


Artspace404 has a number of proposals to consider and should have its first-year slate set by November. As with the innovative national programming showcased by Gay Dawson at the former Sonoma Museum of Visual Art, Artspace404 hopes to raise the bar for our community, giving visitors something to see that they might otherwise have to cross a bridge for. What’s guaranteed is that it won’t be the same-old, same-old. “If someone loves it, great; if someone hates it, great,” Lee says. “We’re looking to have some voice and presence, and we welcome feedback.” Stay tuned for more details.

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