Artwalk— Open Studios, Eateries, and Shops All Within a City Block
SOFA neighborhood transformed into a community for exploration of art and culture
Now in its eighth year, Artwalk is distinctly different from other open studio events. In a once-forgotten corner of downtown Santa Rosa, a stroll through this tree-lined city block gives art lovers a unique opportunity to interact with 25 local artists. Artwalk takes place in the SOFA neighborhood near the intersection of South A Street and Sebastopol Avenue in Santa Rosa on Saturday and Sunday, August 4 and 5, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open studios will feature work in a variety of mediums and styles.
Artists who have moved into the studio space more recently, like Chris Beards and Bill Shelley from Blasted Art Gallery, have put on ambitious and thoughtful shows which stretch the boundaries of Sonoma County’s art scene. They have brought an influx of new people to the neighborhood, and this energy has added to a palpable ambiance of excitement and enthusiasm.
Throop described the progress made by Corrine Haverinen in the last year. Taking a huge creative leap, Haverinen recently mounted a solo show. The studio space has enabled her to work on larger canvases and engage her whole body as she paints.
“Having a studio has pushed me to explore new subject matter in my paintings,” said Haverinen. “I took the biggest risks with two of my recent large pieces, working on the floor, splashing the ink very spontaneously and aggressively. This is something I likely wouldn’t have been able to do at that level had I been painting at home.”
Max Dubois is a lithographer and framer that has been part of this community since 1998. She stumbled on a studio for rent while walking through the neighborhood 20 years ago. Back then it was a small group of people that were simply going about making their art. Growth happened mostly by word of mouth, and it happened quite rapidly as there has never been a lack of artists needing affordable space to create.
“I suppose it’s the most organic growth you can find,” says Dubois. “I don’t think there is any one thing I can point to, people just came together and talked about what was going on in the neighborhood and how we could work things out in a way that we could still exist.”
From there they worked with the city and different local organizations with the goal of raising their visibility as a community of artists. They offered space to hold music and dance events—an interesting mix pulling the arts together—and as growth occurred everyone has benefited.
SOFA is a community of people who care about art and the power of the creative process. The neighborhood has grown into something unique and wonderful, largely due to a core group dedicated to the exploration of art and culture. This community has been built by a combined wealth of knowledge and interest paired with small gestures of kindness.
There are undertones of additional significance woven throughout this year’s Artwalk. In a post-fire Santa Rosa, SOFA’s relevance is amplified.Many of the neighborhood’s artists and shop owners were affected by last fall’s devastating fires. As real estate in this area becomes more valuable, artists here are left wondering if they can afford to stay. While speaking with people at her studio, Dubois says at least three times a week the conversation turns to the loss they experienced because of the fires. They are coming in and looking at the art as a relief for the soul.
“Art makes it more human because it’s all real stuff; art is real,” says Dubois.
Photography by Becky Stender of Tibidabo Photography.