Art is becoming more of a central part of Yolo culture

By Alison Flory

In a county known for being an agricultural powerhouse, it is energizing to know that the arts are also a central component in the growing uniqueness of culture in Yolo County. Nowhere is this more visible than in Davis. From Robert Arneson’s “Eggheads” on the UC Davis campus, to the community built arch of shovels at the entrance to the Arboretum at Davis Commons – a big part of Davis’ distinction is growing a creative culture that celebrates our sense of place.

So much of the public art and arts engagement of our residents comes about through partnerships – public, private, and nonprofit. As Yolo County’s designated local partner with the California Arts Council – YoloArts has the privilege of building diverse partnerships throughout the county. Our partnership with the community has resulted in arts experiences for farmers, veterans, people experiencing homelessness, children in public schools, and many others.

While YoloArts serves all of Yolo County, our presence in Davis has produced some innovative art solutions and programming. We provide fiscal sponsor services for several arts organizations including Art Theater of Davis, Arts Alliance Davis, and Stories on Stage Davis. Having access to a fiscal sponsor helps arts organizations grow from idea, to program provider, and in many cases to an incorporated nonprofit.

Public schools have benefitted by having a teaching artist in residence on elementary school campuses. Many of the artist residencies have resulted in permanent art installations made by students on the campus. Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School, for example, has student made ceramic plaques with the number for each classroom, there is a school sign in the front of the school, and ceramic art installations at the entrance to the library and administration buildings. Most of these public art pieces were made with the guidance of local teaching artist, Rene Martucci.
At Pioneer Elementary School, The Peterson Memorial Garden has a beautiful installation of ceramic butterflies made by the students, in honor of the contributions of a long time Davis teacher and community volunteer, Dorothy Peterson. This art education project was led by teaching artist Linda S. Fitz Gibbon.

There is a veterans art show currently exhibited at the UC Davis Buehler Alumni Center “From Combat to Community” a reprise of a veterans art project YoloArts sponsored two years ago. This celebration of the arts and veteran service featured the commissioning of a poem by former City of Davis poet laureate, Andy Jones.

YoloArts is partnering with the International House in Davis on a youth film workshop project that will highlight diversity of experiences. Youth at the Yolo County juvenile hall will be making films in this 6-week program led by Davis and regionally based teaching artists.

In a partnership with Yolo County Library, YoloArts has produced an arts engagement program for people experiencing homelessness and spending time at the library. This project, I SEE YOU, was originally supported with a grant awarded to YoloArts from the James Irvine Foundation, and is now in its second year. The project received positive response from the community, including people experiencing homelessness who were eager to participate in this opportunity for artistic expression in the project, and agency partners such as the Yolo County Health and Human Services.

The Art & Ag project is in its 11th year and includes 10 farm visits each year. Over the years, many Davis farms have been visited by artists, looking to cultivate a dialogue with farmers and the community to raise awareness about the importance of preserving farmlands and the visual arts in Yolo County. Each month, artists visit a different farm where they can meet the farm owners, paint en plein air, or take photographs and each fall artists are invited to exhibit their agriculturally –inspired artwork at the annual Art Farm Exhibition (October 5) and the Art Farm Gala, November 2 this year.

The Art & Ag Public Art collection is on exhibit at the USDA Rural Development office in downtown Davis.This collection of large-scale paintings, photography, and sculpture celebrates the diversity of agriculture throughout the county, and includes paintings inspired from the Davis Farmers Market. The collection will be on public exhibition for the next six months.

It’s an exciting time to be working alongside a dynamic arts community in Yolo County and Davis. As YoloArts prepares to move into our new home, the 2.5 acre Gibson House Museum and Cultural Center in Woodland, we hope to be part of the ever growing creative vitality infused throughout the county for the benefit of all.