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Petaluma Art in the Park, minus the park

A scheduling mix up canceled Petaluma Arts Association’s Art in the Park last year for the first time in more than 60 years. So, Bridgit Lee, the group’s treasurer, wanted to make this year’s Art in the Park the biggest event yet.

She may have gotten her wish — sort of. This year’s Art in the Park, featuring more than 140 artists, will be the biggest in the group’s history, it just won’t take place in the traditional Walnut Park venue.

Like most events in the pandemic-plagued year, Petaluma’s Art in the Park is moving online, where even more local artists can showcase their talents and offer their work for sale.

“It is still like a stroll through the park,” Lee said of the online experience. “You can still get that joy.”

The online event, at www.virtualartinthepark.org, is running through Sept. 1, instead of the one September day that Petaluma Arts Association usually gets. The event has been held each year since 1957, except for last year when the city mistakenly gave the Walnut Park permit to the Boy Scouts for an emergency preparedness fair.

“We said that we could survive without it for one year,” said Lee, a Petaluma sculptor. “Then COVID happened and we feared it would be the end of PAA.”

On a Zoom meeting, Lee said the organizers hatched the idea of switching to a Virtual Art in the Park. It joins a growing list of cherished Petaluma events that have moved online amid a viral pandemic that has prevented large crowds from gathering safely.

The Sonoma-Marin Fair had a virtual event in June, the Petaluma Music Festival went online this month, and the Petaluma Educational Foundation’s Bash fundraiser has scheduled a virtual event next month.

The online exhibition features art, fine crafts, poetry, music and performances. Artists from Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties are featured as well as a marketplace to purchase their work.

“It’s a lift-up project,” said Lee, whose mother was an art teacher and grew up attending the Art in the Park event. “We wanted to do something that could help the art community.”

For many local artists, the virtual exhibition is a lifeline at a time when galleries are shuttered and art sales are sluggish. Meret Piderman, a Petaluma ceramic and textile artist, said participating in the event is another way to reach an audience after selling her work locally and opening a shop on the craft site Etsy.

Through the exhibit, she is offering handcrafted ceramic vases and candlesticks. She is also selling homemade sewing kits to make stuffed dragons and giraffes, a perfect activity for cooped up kids, she said.

“I like to do a lot of things for kids and I teach children’s classes,” Piderman said. “These are kits that you can buy that come with everything, including the needle, the thread, the stuffing, instructions. The idea is that your child can work independently, since everybody is working from home now, and they don’t have to ask you questions constantly.”

While Lee hopes the online event is successful, she said the Petaluma Arts Association only intends to do it this year to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

“We definitely plan to be back in the park next year,” she said.

To see Virtual Art in the Park, visit www.virtualartinthepark.com.

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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