Petaluma exhibition calls attention to works by artists with disabilites

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Arts Center show focuses on artists with disabilities

PLANNING TO GO?

What: ‘The Inside Faces of Outsider Arts’

When: Running through May 26. The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m.-4.p.m.

Where: Petaluma Arts Center, 130 Lakeville St.

Admission: $5 general, $4 senior, student, teacher and military, and Petaluma Arts Center members are free.

Accompanying events: A number of events, talks and performances are planned throughout the run of the exhibition.

Wednesday, April 17, 5-7 p.m.

Panel Discussion: ‘Who is an Ousider?’

Several of the show’s artists, along with their arts mentors, will discuss the meaning of the word “outsider.”

Thursday, April 25, 5-7 p.m.

Panel Discussion: ‘Who is an Ousider?’

Several of the show’s artists, along with their arts mentors, will discuss the meaning of the word “outsider.”

Friday, May 3, 5-7 p.m.

Bouquets de Art

The Petaluma Garden Club creates elaborate floral displays paired with specific art pieces in the “Outsider Art” exhibition. The floral show lasts just this one weekend, May 3-5.

Friday, April 17, 7-9 p.m.

Superfest Showcase: International Disability Film Festival

Since 1970, this remarkable touring exhibition of films has portrayed disability through the perspectives and lenses of talented filmmakers.

Thursday, May 23, 7-9 p.m.

Alchemia Cabaret Performance

The exhibit closes with a vibrant celebration featuring performances of Alchemia singers, dancers, comedians and other entertainers.

Information: Learn more about these events, and the “Outsider Art” exhibition, at PetalumaArtsCenter.org.

At the entrance to the Petaluma Art Center’s new exhibition, “The Inside Face of Outsider Art: New Perspectives from the North Bay,” there is a collage of boxes, faces and words. Each face is that of an artist whose work is on display in the show, and accompanies a short quote.

“Art makes me feel happy,” writes Marcia Dinkelspiel. “I love to draw circles and then turn them into flowers.” “I just love art,” says Jean Coury. “It feels food and makes me happy, I draw, paint, sew and knit. I love purple.” Adds Josie Juantorena, “I’ve been making art for a long time! I love drawing people and animals, especially cats, leopards and tigers. A lot of people like pink, but I like red.”

And Petaluma’s own Michael Cheney states, “My ideas come out of my head like water out of a fountain. Art makes me feel calm, and helps me escape from the world’s troubles. For a few minutes, it’s just me and my art.”

“That’s me, right here. And those are mine, over there,” says Cheney himself, locating his own face on the display, and then leading a visitor over to where his ceramic creations are on vibrant display. The sculptures are of brightly glazed bears, one with a set of headphones on. “People think my bears are funny,” he says. “I do too. I like funny things a lot, so a lot of my art is funny. There’s nothing wrong with funny, but I can do all kinds of other feelings too. Feelings are what art is all about.”

After a few more moments, Cheney excuses himself to go explore the rest of the gallery, currently packed with artists — many of them friends of Cheney’s — all having similar experiences. On this pre-opening meet-and-greet (which took place Friday, April 12), dozens of artists and their families, instructors and caregivers are present. The artwork itself is extraordinary, a blend of styles and media that run the gamut from abstract and fantastical to detailed and realistic. A big part of the fun today is in watching each artist step into the gallery, search for their face on the entryway collage, then begin locating their own art works somewhere in the room, on lovingly curated display. Once discovered, the pieces are happily pointed out, talked about and explained. Some of the featured artists gleefully pose for anyone nearby holding a camera, basking in the pleasure of being an artist whose work is clearly valued.

That, of course, is a major goal of “The Inside Face of Outsider Art”: to shine a light on work that is not generally displayed in a gallery or museum setting. The Arts Center exhibit features nearly 60 artists from three North Bay nonprofits, each of which assists clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, all of whom identify strongly as artists. Alchemia, based in Santa Rosa but with a gallery and studio in Petaluma (and another in Novato), includes clients who create poetry, video, dance and other forms of live expression. The other organizations involved are Cedars of Marin and Marin Ventures. Founded in 1919, Cedars operates a number of group homes in San Rafael and Novato, along with a large live-in campus facility in Ross. It is the oldest organization of its kind in Marin County. Marin Ventures is a community-integration day program, working to “foster independence and personal growth,” and to encourage integration and participation in the wider Marin County community.

Arts Center show focuses on artists with disabilities

PLANNING TO GO?

What: ‘The Inside Faces of Outsider Arts’

When: Running through May 26. The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m.-4.p.m.

Where: Petaluma Arts Center, 130 Lakeville St.

Admission: $5 general, $4 senior, student, teacher and military, and Petaluma Arts Center members are free.

Accompanying events: A number of events, talks and performances are planned throughout the run of the exhibition.

Wednesday, April 17, 5-7 p.m.

Panel Discussion: ‘Who is an Ousider?’

Several of the show’s artists, along with their arts mentors, will discuss the meaning of the word “outsider.”

Thursday, April 25, 5-7 p.m.

Panel Discussion: ‘Who is an Ousider?’

Several of the show’s artists, along with their arts mentors, will discuss the meaning of the word “outsider.”

Friday, May 3, 5-7 p.m.

Bouquets de Art

The Petaluma Garden Club creates elaborate floral displays paired with specific art pieces in the “Outsider Art” exhibition. The floral show lasts just this one weekend, May 3-5.

Friday, April 17, 7-9 p.m.

Superfest Showcase: International Disability Film Festival

Since 1970, this remarkable touring exhibition of films has portrayed disability through the perspectives and lenses of talented filmmakers.

Thursday, May 23, 7-9 p.m.

Alchemia Cabaret Performance

The exhibit closes with a vibrant celebration featuring performances of Alchemia singers, dancers, comedians and other entertainers.

Information: Learn more about these events, and the “Outsider Art” exhibition, at PetalumaArtsCenter.org.

“To watch them see their art hanging on the walls in a place like this, it’s just so moving to me,” says Mary Gannon Graham, one of the instructors at Alchemia. “I’m just in awe of what all of these artists have created. I love that they get to see how valuable their voices and visions are.”

“Outsider Art,” a term coined in the ‘70s by art critic Roger Cardinal, is generally used to describe the works of artists who are self-taught, or who developed outside the environment of “mainstream” art institutions and their galleries, schools and publications. Such work often illustrates the experiences of artists who use their craft in powerfully personal and non-conformist ways.

On the Center’s website, a statement invites visitors to view the artwork as a portal into a uniquely inspired and assumption-expanding worldview. “These bold artistic voices,” it says, “provide an arresting examination of both pop and traditional cultural norms of the seen and unseen world we inhabit.”

According to Jiz Jahren, Artistic Director of Alchemia, while many collectors and arts aficionados have become aware of the rise and significance of so-called Outsider Art, it’s time that that definition be expanded to include her own clients, and those of the other nonprofits represented in this show.

“This show is about these artists standing up and saying they want people to know they are here, they are making amazing art, and they deserve to be considered part of the contemporary art scene,” she says. “We believe that when people come to the Arts Center to see this show, they will be blown away.”

Most of the art work on display in the exhibition is for sale, with profits benefitting the artists, the Arts Center and the host organizations.

In the facility’s smaller adjoining Community Room Gallery, another exhibition is opening this weekend. A display of art by members of the PAC’s newest outreach project, the Youth Advisory Council, the show presents works by local high school artists, who’ve participated themselves in coordinating and mounting the exhibit. A reception for these young artists will be held this Friday, April 19, from 5-7 p.m.

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