(article from WillitsWeekly)
Local galleries host what organizers hope will become a monthly art walk in Willits
“We’re trying to encourage more galleries to get involved,” said Gary Martin, curator of the Willits Center for the Arts, referring to Saturday’s Art Walk in Willits. “We currently have six galleries here in town, and not many people are aware of them all.”
The art walks are “an opportunity for people to go around to the various galleries and see what they do, find some new places to visit, and meet some interesting people,” Martin said. “We’re going to try and do this monthly. It will be the first Friday of each month. This isn’t to compete with Ukiah [which has its own First Friday event]. It’s for people to get around our town and visit our galleries.“
It is the hope of the participants – the Willits Center for the Arts, Re-Evolution, Art in the Plaza, and Leopold Collective this time, and also hopefully Miss Rossi’s Creative Art Studio and Brickhouse Coffee – that monthly art walks in Willits can become a tradition that brings people out to appreciate the fine work done by mostly local artists and that they become an event that the townsfolk will look forward to each month.
Organizers would like to see people participate, and appreciate. Two of the venues, the Art Center and ReEvolution added music to the mix to create a more immersive experience and to attract curious passersby. “Halley [Armstrong, part owner of the Leopold Collective] and I have been creating impromptu art walks over time,” said Missy Sweda-Stevens, owner of Re-Evolution, “where we would just find out the Art Center’s openings of their new artists and then we would create a map and put everybody’s logos on the map.
“Just recently, the Art Center got on board with it, so now it’s taking off as something more organized,” she said. “Now there is Art in the Plaza and Rossi’s Gallery. We’re not usually open on Saturdays, but we decided to come in today to do this.”
Re-Evolution, a retail sustainable fabric and clothing store on East Mendocino Street, is showing Halley Armstrong’s work in their small but airy gallery, a varied exhibition of several styles which Armstrong is exploring to express her love of the natural world as well as world cultures. “This geisha is a piece I did a while ago on an Asian theme,” Armstrong said. “At my shop, Leopold Collective, there is another one of a floating market. They were inspired by Thailand and Japan. I love the idea of different cultures. I learned a lot from those countries.” A world traveler, Armstrong volunteered with International Student Volunteers, involved in rehoming animals from the Asian black markets.
Morgan Rex, a sculptor in metal (mostly copper) and creator of dynamic soothing water fountains, owns the Art in the Plaza Gallery which was open for the art walk. His shop is a collection of fine local art, his metal work, and small giftable artistic items.“We have some new work in by Teresa Robertson,” Rex explained. “She does work with her dogs [bull
terriers] as the subject.” These images are available as prints or cards. Art in the Plaza can be found behind Cafe 77 on Main Street.
Leopold Collective is a gallery and collective art space just north of the Northspur Brewery on Main Street. Trenton Leopold and Halley Armstrong created the collective three or four years ago to provide a place where artists can craft their work without interference from corporations or boards of directors. They have had several fundraisers and have donated money to the various school art programs in Willits. The gallery currently has the work of several artists in varying forms and disciplines, including Anna from Argentina who was in attendance Saturday night. Anna’s work involves homage to the feminine divine. “It’s in ourselves, in all of us,” she said. “I feel like the fear that is in front of all of us is very powerful and we all are creators. It’s about facing that fear and using it to create something.” Elsewhere in the space, Leopold has set up a blacklight room to show the work of artist Kelly Faust and others.
The Willits Center for the Arts, at 71 East Commercial Street, is showing the work of two artists with strong ties to Willits, Anne Magratten, who now lives in Oregon but grew up in the area, and Danza Davis, a local resident. Magratten’s work is inspired by nature and her concern for the way that humans have treated the environment in which they live. She showed beautiful, natural
landscapes seemingly marked by spray paint graffiti.“ I have a real love of graffiti,” she said. “I love those marks. I often ask myself if they are destructive
or decorative. That ties in with how I think about the environment, because sometimes I feel that I have all of this appreciation for the landscape, and then I get very nervous due to the fact that we are doing very little to really conserve and protect the environment. It’s heartbreaking.”
Danza Davis’ symmetrical and dynamic limited-palette works are an homage to her father who passed away in 2018. Several of her elements are taken from his artistic works. “I added to those elements,” she said, “my interest in the natural world and particularly species that I have encountered. What you see in here are plants and animals that I have encountered.” An extremely interesting offering is her distressed installation piece that was damaged in transit a while ago. She calls it, “A Painting Dissolving” or alternately “A Painting Evolving,” as it creates a different narrative depending on the direction in which the viewer scans the work. She feels that it gives the viewer an insight into her process and her use of limited pre-set palettes.
Rossi’s Gallery, 1766 South Main Street, was supposed to be part of the walk (drive), but was not able to participate due to unforeseen circumstances. They will hopefully be able to participate in future art walk evenings. Brickhouse Coffee, 3 South Main, Street opened a new show by local artist Marco Donner this week. Brickhouse has also participated in past art walks and may do so in the future