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Petaluma wants John Oliver’s art

Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett is a big supporter of the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum. She is also a big fan of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the satirical HBO news show.

Barrett happened to catch Oliver’s show last month where he noted that museums — “history’s Instagram,” as he put it — have struggled through the pandemic-induced shutdown. The comedian put out a call for grant proposals for museums to host his collection of unusual artwork plus a $10,000 donation to the institution as well as another $10,000 for a local food bank.

Barrett got inspired.

“I just thought, why not,” she said. “I wrote a letter and sent it off.”

The Petaluma Museum and Redwood Empire Food Bank are now officially in the running for the “John Oliver has your Rat Erotica” grant.

About that title: Throughout the course of Oliver’s show, he has purchased, mostly as a joke, some rather eccentric paintings, including of two rats in a risque embrace, TV host Wendy Williams eating a pork chop and economic advisor Larry Kudlow’s ties.

The museum with the winning proposal will get to display the paintings along with receiving the grant money. Barrett’s grant letter notes that the Petaluma Museum has taken a revenue hit during the pandemic.

“Your gift of $10,000 would allow us to archive and digitize our collection and preserve it from, not only the rodents we’ve had to repel (no offense intended to your charming rat erotica oeuvre!), but also from the dangers of being housed in a spectacular but seismically vulnerable Carnegie Library,” she wrote, noting that the Food Bank has provided thousands of meals to wildfire victims.

If Petaluma wins, Barrett hoped Oliver would attend the exhibit’s opening the way he visited Danbury, Connecticut, for the unveiling of a wastewater treatment plant named after him. If that’s not possible, she said the city would hold a John Oliver Look Alike Contest to find his stand-in.

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