In order to form a more robust and inspired community, we have invited the members of Out Here to be our collective artists-in-residence this summer. What happens next is anyone’s guess — and the exciting bit.
A project of the 428 Collective, a Healdsburg-based cadre of visual artists, Out Here is dedicated to encouraging Sonoma County residents to gather, connect, and reflect on the unique pleasures of place.
Together, Out Here will produce a series of community-centered events and projects that celebrate the personal stories, histories, and places that have shaped our spot on the globe.
The slate of interactive events kicked off on June 1 with a pie parade flash mob in the Healdsburg Plaza. Inspired by SHED co-owner Cindy Daniel’s family tradition of a pie parade, the Out Here artists enlarged the vision by making it a public event, added the element of surprise that a flash mob engenders, and guaranteed that it was a success because it all comes down to community. And dessert.
Chelsea Wills, a visual artist, writer, and podcaster with the 428 Collective, sees the Out Here events as a way of prompting discussion and bringing people together. Sonoma County artists have historically felt the challenges of forming community. Out Here wants to help bridge that.
“We see culture and culture makers as already existing here,” Chelsea says. “But one of the challenges here is that Sonoma County is big, and visibility is difficult. Creating points where people can connect is central.”
As the summer progresses, Out Here will stage “Coming Home,” a short film series (June 22); host a live recording of one of Chelsea’s Delicious Revolution podcasts (July 6); and host a Local Treasures presentation (Aug. 24) with area historians and artists discussing some of the more notable residents who have called Sonoma County home.
Ongoing in the SHED, Out Here silent films will be screened against the café walls while the collective’s story recording booth will trot around the county all summer long collecting narratives to share.
It’s an ambitious project both in conception and scope.
“We all live and work here in Sonoma County,” Chelsea says. “We want to expand what the cultural conversation is, what’s happening here.” In addition to Chelsea, Out Here members include Jessica Martin, Flora Skivington, Pat Lenz, Victoria Wagner, Susan Preston, and Caitlin McCaffrey. Each artist approaches the challenges of the collective differently.
“Susan’s life is like a work of art,” Chelsea says. “I see that in each of the members of this group in a different way. Flora is a filmmaker who tells stories through her films but her subjects are ordinary people with ordinary lives. There’s this magical quality to the mundane.”
Celebrating and discovering the beauty of the ordinary everyday details of place is among Out Here’s goals. It’s a way to name Sonoma County as home.
“Especially now, with so much wine, Sonoma County can be seen as this really glossy, really produced place,” Chelsea says, “and we find our inspiration for culture and culture-making in the complexity of the relationships and the land and the imagination of what it can be.”
Long a haven for utopia-seekers and other dreamers, Sonoma County has a rich history of providing solace and inspiration to artists. While sculptor Mark di Suvero still maintains a studio in Petaluma, this area has historically been home to artists Robert McChesney, Wally Hedrick, Frank Lobdell, Sam Francis, Hassel Smith, Marguerite Wildenhain, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others. This history is part of what the Out Here artists wish to explore.
“The more we investigate this, the more we realized how many artists have lived here and wondered why that is,” Chelsea says. “I have lots of theories, but really — how amazing to live in a place that continues to attract people who want to go do what they love.”
But most of all, Out Here will spend the summer with SHED celebrating — and building — community.
“We want things to be going on,” Chelsea says. “We want to be exploring things. And we think that there’s an amazing possibility for there to be more. We want everyone to feel welcomed. [Out Here] is welcoming and open and conceptual and challenging and pushing all the conversation forward.”
Come join the conversation!