The Napan Renaissance

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GH Gallery.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Five years ago, no one would have come to the city of Napa for its fine arts.  2010 marks the dawn of a new era for Napa's art scene, with no fewer than three downtown Napa galleries open to the public, a new month-long celebration of the arts this fall, and--for the first time in its 23-year history--an Open Studios event organized and planned by the artists themselves.  This autumn is the ideal time to visit Napa Valley and experience the artistic renaissance that is beginning to take shape.
Open Studios is a free, self-guided event the last two weekends in September that allows the public to tour the studios Napa Valley artists use to create their work.  Historically this event was put on by the Arts Council Napa Valley, but this year the artists have taken over and organized the event themselves.  Over 65 artists will be presenting their work at 38 working studios across the Napa Valley, and several local wineries and businesses sponsoring the event will also be presenting special exhibitions in honor of the event.  Twenty-four of the 38 participating studio spaces are located south of Yountville Cross Road, a striking testament to the artistic energy of Napa proper.  Photography, painting, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, glasswork, digital media, pen and ink drawings, light fixtures, multimedia assemblage, and even custom boot making will be on display and for sale to the public.  Check the Open Studios website for all participating artists, locations, and times.


"Nutcracker" by Gabriel Picart
With Open Studios under the artists' control this year, the Arts Council is launching Napa Valley Arts 2010--a month-long, all-county festival cultivating homegrown creativity from October 15th to November 14th, 2010.  More than 100 events and performances at galleries, schools, theaters, and wineries are in the works, kicking off with a reception at Mumm on October 15th.  Presenting partners like The diRosa Preserve, The Uptown Theatre, New Tech High School, Lincoln Theater, The Oxbow School, The Cameo Cinema, Silo's Jazz and Wine Bar, La Vida Napa, and the Napa Valley Symphony (among many others) ensure the event will cover an enormous range of media, styles, cultures, and generations.  The full catalog of events will be available in early October, but check the Napa Valley Arts event website for updates.

Whether you time your visit during one of this fall's celebrations or not, the West End of Napa now boasts its own growing art community that is open all year round.  The south side of First Street between Randolph and School Streets has become a veritable gallery row, with Quent Cordair Fine Art, The Artists of the Valley co-op, and the brand-new Gordon Huether Gallery situated here.


"Lemons & Fruit" by Alfredo Gomez
Quent and Linda Cordair moved their fine art gallery from Burlingame to Napa in 2008, and since that time have been drawing international fans of romantic realism to the corner of First and Randolph.  Open every day except Tuesdays, the 3600 square foot gallery displays a varied selection of works that evoke passion, romance, and adventure--the kind of positive force, Director Linda Cordair says, that many people are looking for in times like the present.   Linda herself is almost always on hand to greet visitors, answer questions, coordinate interest-free layaway plans, or just chat about art, wine, Napa's renaissance, or Twitter.  "No one's selling you a car," as she says. "Our gallery provides a kind of match-making service by finding perfect homes for our artist's 'children.'" The gallery hosts complimentary weekend wine tastings and themed tweet-up parties throughout the year, and also participates in school field trip programs designed to introduce children to art.  Follow the gallery on Facebook or via Twitter (@CordairGallery) for all the latest happenings.


Gordon Huether.  Photo Credit: Shellene Hanan
At the other end of the artistic spectrum, well-known local artist Gordon Huether opened his second Napa gallery down the street from QCFA in August of this year.  Gordon's abstract, modern works express his personal search "for a more aggressive side of beauty," and can be spotted all over town at restaurants, tasting rooms, and in public art installations.  His collection at the new gallery ranges from repurposed object assemblages, to fused glass renderings of sketches, to vine-inspired tables, to salvaged metalwork, all conveying Gordon's story of exploration and self-discovery in his characteristically edgy, emphatic style.  

The Napa Valley Art Association has its exhibition space on First Street between QCFA and Gordon Huether, open every day of the week.  Their gallery celebrates the work of numerous local member artists and includes original painting, photography, and jewelry as well as prints, calendars, and greeting cards.  On Fridays and Saturday evenings, the artists themselves turn out to greet visitors with music, candy, and enthusiasm for this magical part of the world.  

Whether you are an art buff or someone just looking for beauty, Napa's artistic renaissance offers a feast for the soul. Don't let your mouth be the only beneficiary of your next visit.

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