Despite the persistent northerly gusts compromising the sun's effectiveness, a certain stubborn balminess permeated Old Town Eureka throughout last Saturday's Arts Alive! event. At long last, summer had arrived, bringing with it not only the usual hordes of event attendees, but an extra-special party down on the waterfront -- the North Coast Journal's birthday/relocation celebration. As a result, much less time than usual was spent appreciating wall adornment ... and much more time was spent on the art of revelry-inducement!
Tasty, well-presented food sure to please the eye and the palate? Check. Beer and wine to wash away the day's cares and facilitate ease of enjoyment? Of course. Slightly behind-the-times protesters providing either a cutting edge or comic relief depending on your point-of-view? Hooray! Fine music inspiring appreciation in the form of The Delta Nationals and Josephine Johnson? Absolutely. Performance art in the form of local rock gods Magnum dueting with Duane Flatmo's fire-breathing dragon? Yes! Creating a multi-layered, memorable social experience certainly takes creativity, an understanding of composition and the ability to reach a diverse audience -- this crowd was wowed beyond all reasonable measure.
Although your art correspondent was terribly distracted by the festivities, she did not completely shirk her duties. Specifically, she made sure to attend the "Fresh Meat" show at Humboldt State University's First Street Gallery (conveniently located near the party). You should too.
The exhibition is billed by the gallery as "a clear demonstration of the excellent career preparation that Humboldt State University offers its art majors." While the school is perhaps known more for forestry, fisheries and wildlife students, art continues to be one of the highest-enrolled majors at the HSU campus. The Art Department employs 25 full- and part-time instructors, and offers multiple studio facilities and several campus showcases that "enable undergraduates to enjoy an early experience of presenting their works to the public." ("Enjoy" being a relative term.) For students enrolled in the department's Museum and Gallery Practices Program, practical, hands-on experience occurs as they design, coordinate and curate exhibits at First Street Gallery -- typically quite well -- as First Street offers consistently interesting, professional shows. The fact that so much of the exhibits are student-orchestrated says a great deal about the quality of direction they've experienced. Likewise, the level of accomplishment seen in "Fresh Meat" suggests the graduates did learn a thing or two while studying art at HSU.
Said First Street Gallery Director Jack Bentley, "All 15 participants demonstrate real evidence of artistic success. Crucial to their success, however, are the less tangible qualities they all share -- a dedication and commitment to making art as a way of life and a deep engagement with their work on poetic and intellectual levels." The participating artists are Michael Batty, painting; Heather Cruce, ceramics and video; Dorian Daneau, ceramics and aluminum sculpture; Jennifer Divine, painting; Kelley Donahue, ink and watercolors; Kacie Flynn, painting; Dan Hapgood, jewelry; Annakatrin Kraus, ceramic sculpture; Elizabeth Lipski, jewelry; Ruth Miller, printmaking; Toni Moss, bronze sculpture and fibers; Jimmie Nord, sculpture; Charissa Schulze, printmaking; Seth Simpson, ceramic pottery; Victoria Viramontes, painting; and April Zariczny, small metals.
Flynn's and Kraus' pieces in particular demand attention.
Make a social event out of it: Invite a friend or two -- or maybe plan a see-how-cultured-I-am romantic lunch date that includes a sunny stroll through Old Town -- but definitely plan to check out the show before its Aug. 12 closing. First Street Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and is located at 422 First St. in Eureka. Admission is free to all. For more information, call 443-6363 or visit humboldt.edu/~first.
Coming up this Friday night at Arts! Arcata, meet one of the professors formerly responsible for sharpening the skills of young artists. Along with drawings and paintings by Kelley Donahue and photographs by Brian Allison, the Humboldt Arts Project features works by retired HSU painting professor Leslie Kenneth Price at Robert Goodman Wines' new Good Taste tasting room at 937 10th St.
"My painting has always been in response to some aspect of nature as well as the mystery of the cycle of growth and decay," says Price. "I paint from flowers in a vase, a view in a garden or a view of the forest or landscape. Besides the beauty of what I am responding to I am also attracted to the uniqueness of how the space, light and color all interact."
Also likely worth checking out during Arts! Arcata (Friday, July 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. -- full listings elsewhere in the Journal), the grand opening of the Soul to Soul Spa. I don't know much about Soul to Soul (soultosoulspa.com), but any place that advertises a "Foot Bar Happy Hour" is off to a good start in my book. And when the art and music include Brian "Mantease" Woida -- you may know him from Arcata's rock-and-rollingest band The Ravens -- popping in is a must. Soul to Soul spa is conveniently located right down the street from Good Taste at 854 10th St.
On a more serious note, as the Journal goes to print, the Northern Humboldt Unified School District school board faces an important decision at its Tuesday, July 6 meeting, one that "could have long lasting positive implications for our community," according to Arts Arcata Institute Director Anne Bown-Crawford. The question: whether or not to put a bond measure on the November ballot that will go toward building a new Visual and Performing Arts Complex at Arcata High School, as well as update technology throughout the schools, and improve track and field facilities at both Arcata and McKinleyville high schools. My support for arts in the schools has been repeatedly expressed in this column -- I'm hoping the school board does the right thing for all the kids needing more than a high school experience filled with rote academia. Which is to say, all the kids.