There’s a reason Benicia has one of the richest, most diverse concentrations of talented artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. It started 30 years ago when a handful of visionary artists sought to bring a collective voice and focus to Benicia’s already growing arts community. In May of 1987 these visionaries could not have known that their alliance, appropriately named Arts Benicia, would forever change the creative landscape of their small town.

ArtsBenicia1Much like a family, the legacy of Arts Benicia carries on through each generation of artists. Collaboration and education, often the catalyst of creativity, have paved the way for new artists looking to further the artistic boundaries of their contemporaries.

This is true for Benicia native, Derek Weisberg, who is now a successful figurative ceramic artist living and working in New York City. When Weisberg was a teenager, he was a frequent volunteer at Arts Benicia, showed his first works in the Next Generation exhibition (a widely attended youth exhibit that continues today), and studied under Arthur Gonzalez who in turn studied under one of California’s most renowned clay artists, Robert Arneson. Robert, a highly respected and beloved Benicia artist, was considered the father of the ceramic Funk Art movement, and was also a ceramic sculptor.

MikeKendall

Artist Mike Kendall

But this is just one of many amazing stories originating from the galleries and halls of Arts Benicia. In 1993 Mike Kendall (pictured here on the left), a highly sought after Benicia sculptor, was one of the very first to exhibit his work in the 2,400 square-foot space in the historic Arsenal where Arts Benicia now calls home.

In celebration of their anniversary, Kendall’s retrospective will take up the entire Arts Benicia gallery from the first weekend in April through Open Studios, which is held the first weekend in May (May 6-7). If you haven’t already visited during Open Studios weekend, this is a unique opportunity to meet the artists in their working studios and to see a full range of art in progress.

Popular annual events

And since this is a very special year for Arts Benicia, they will be hosting four major art events. Beginning in the spring, women will share their voice and vision during the 8th annual Creative Women Symposium Panel. Held on March 11, this event is co-hosted by Arts Benicia and the Benicia-Vallejo American Association of University Women.

Following the symposium is “Benicia Artists Open Studios” weekend (May 6-7), when local artists will open their studios to the public both in the Arsenal and throughout town. A SolTrans shuttle will be available to transport art enthusiasts from the Arsenal to downtown and back all weekend.

Then in the fall, visitors will have the opportunity to raise money for Arts Benicia during their annual Art Auction in their gallery on September 23 (auctioned art will be available for a two-week preview September 9-23). For additional information on Arts Benicia events please visit artsbenicia.org.

Other upcoming exhibits

In addition to this year’s exciting events, Arts Benicia has an incredible lineup of exhibits by active and influential artists from all over. Currently on display is ‘The Art of a Community’, a collection of art showcasing the multifaceted talents of Arts Benicia members. ‘The Art of a Community’ will be on exhibit through February 19.

From June 10 – July 9 artists from Solano and Sacramento will exchange places during the ‘Human Voices Cross Currents Exchange: Solano + Sacramento artists’ with Sacramento curators Robert-Jean Ray and Nisa Hayden from Beatnik Gallery, and Arts Benicia’s Celeste Smeland, and Mary Shaw. Later in the month, July 29 – August 27, Juror Kathryn Harmon from Tributary Books in Seattle, WA will be adjudicating artists’ work for ‘Mapping Your Terrain’, an exhibition of the map as art.

From October 14 – November 19 don’t miss ‘Clay – A Legacy of Social Consciousness’ with Curator Lisa Reinertson, (who also studied with Robert Arneson.) And then Gems IV (small works) with Juror Donna Seager from the Seager-Gray Gallery in Mill Valley from December 2-25.