The Santa Rosa Arts Center is currently hosting a gallery of complete garbage, but in the best possible way.
Culturally, we live in a world that’s largely viewed as disposable. Innovations in recent years have sought to challenge and correct that attitude, but the convenience of easy-made trash persists. SRAC, a strong local voice, is joining the good fight with its exhibit, “Transformations: Recycled Art,” a showcase for locally made assemblage art.
“The idea for this exhibit was hatched at a meeting of the Santa Rosa Arts Center Advisory Committee,” said Simmon Factor, local artist and director of SRAC. “Several committee members do collage and assemblage. I, for one, have been making assemblages from found, bought or otherwise recycled objects since the early 1980s, and recycled-magazine collages even earlier.”
For the uninitiated, assemblage art is the practice of taking unrelated or disparate, discarded objects and bringing them together to form an entirely new expression. But its meaning can reach beyond artistry and into the realm of practicality.
“Recology Sonoma, who are one of the sponsors of the event, gave me a tour of the facility where they separate the trash,” Factor said. “There is an enormous amount of objects which could be useful for art. It is our hope that ‘Transformations: Recycled Art’ might inspire more people to reuse and reinvent rather than [discard] objects [and] dispose of them.”
This exhibit isn’t SRAC’s first foray into improving the local community through artistic outreach. Founded in September of 2017, SRAC took over what was previously the Chroma Gallery with a mission statement to, according to the SRAC website, “enrich the cultural experience of [their] community by providing arts education, classes for all ages and abilities, exhibit space for locals artists, and offering a venue for performances, literary arts, and events.”
Founded just a month prior to the October Tubbs Fire, SRAC’s show the following February was very topical and important at the time. It was called “Healing By Art: After the Fires.”
The center followed that initial show with another later in the summer, “Healing by Writing: After the Fires,” and continues that important trend of community-strengthening events through to today.
In fact, “Transformations” isn’t SRAC’s first show devoted to the art of assemblage. The first show, “Wonder and Whimsy: An Exhibit of Collage and Assemblage,” was held in late 2018. Factor and the Center’s other artists recognize the recurring message of these programs as important and worth the investment of talent and attention. But there’s more to it than that.
“Besides the obvious message about recycling expressed by this art exhibit,” Factor said, “it can also be viewed within the broader history of assemblage and other art created from discarded objects. I recall a baboon Picasso once made from his son’s toy car, and Louise Nevelson’s constructions made from discarded wood.”
Creativity abounds, and there’s a home for it at SRAC. As mentioned, beyond its community outreach and shows, the center hosts a variety of classes, workshops and its own Speakeasy, an open-mic night for musicians, poets and expressive souls alike. Participation is warmly encouraged, an enduring attitude for their many programs.
“This was an open, not juried show,” Factor said of the “Transformations” artist-selection process. “Although many of the artists are SRAC members, this wasn’t a requirement. The invitation went out to the North Bay arts community via social media and our email list.”
“Transformations: Recycled Art” is open until May 28 at the Santa Rosa Arts Center, 312 S A St., Santa Rosa. santarosaartscenter.org.