Courtesy of Sebastopol Center for the Arts

Sebastopol Center for the Arts launches SAVOS, which will display art through September


Around this time every year, artists from around the county come together to show work at collective, in-person art shows and in open studios. In June, Sebastopol Center for the Arts organizes Art at the Source. In October, it organizes Sonoma County Art Trails. This year, however, neither program is being hosted as usual. Rather, artists from around the county are showing their work online in a virtual open studio.

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts launched a virtual platform to partially remedy the dilemma of how to support the vibrant art scene in west county, and in Sonoma County as a whole — SebArts Virtual Open Studios (SAVOS) made its virtual debut on Sept. 1 and will have artists and art showcased throughout the month.

“The arts sector is a really important part particularly of the west county economy. It’s an important part of the Sonoma County economy, but I think it’s really important to Sebastopol and to the west county economy. So here they are, all of these artists who are unable to or really don’t want to open up their homes or studios in a pandemic situation,” Sebastopol for the Arts Chief Financial Officer Una Glass said. “They needed to have a way that they could present themselves in our usual open studio environment and just make it electronic, so that’s what we’ve done.”

So, with help from a county grant, the center put together a website to serve as a way artists and art appreciators can explore and discuss local work.

One hundred and thirty-eight artists are collectively showing 811 pieces of artwork on SAVOS, and like with Art Trails, participants are from throughout the county.

Typically, Art at the Source is non-juried and artists can work together, while Sonoma County Art Trails is established artists who work in their own studio and they’re juried. For SAVOS, Catherine Devriese, Creative Director of Sebastopol Center for the Arts said that Sebastopol Center for the Arts extended invitations to both groups of artists.

Each participating artist was able to choose six pieces to be shown and sold on the SAVOS website, and each artist has their own page on the website where they can link to their own website or share information about themselves and their work.

While SAVOS can take the place of the traditional open studios associated with the two art events, participating artists can choose to open their studios or have them available for appointments.

“The whole purpose is for artists to be showing their work on the website, but if they want to open their studio they can,” said Devriese.

Devriese said that if artists choose to open up their studios, they’ve been asked to follow state and county guidelines and to put out sanitizer and face coverings.

To get everyone prepared, the center hosted workshops to help artists who aren’t tech savvy familiarize themselves with using social media, presenting work online and navigating platforms like Zoom. Over the course of the month, artists will be participating in free online live panels over Zoom. Panels range in topic from studio walkthroughs to discussions about artists’ work and the mediums they use. To view the list of virtual events, click here.

“I think it’s nice for artists to get to talk about what they’re doing and why and I think it’s interesting for collectors too,” Devriese said.

Though having everything displayed online gives the center the opportunity to have SAVOS up in perpetuity, Devriese and Glass said that they wanted to make the event more concentrated. The gallery and the function that allows people to purchase pieces of art will be up through the end of September. After which, Glass said, that they may leave the pieces and information up online without the ability to purchase them, though a concrete plan has yet to be finalized.

“We’re trying to create an event that’s in a space of time, so just like Art Trails is usually two specific weekends in the fall and Art at the Source is the same kind of thing. It will be a limited amount of time, however what I do think is, since we built this platform, we will be able to use this in an ongoing way,” Glass said. “Even after we’re through COVID, we’ll still be able to have a hybrid event in the future because we have this really great website that consolidates the opportunity for all of our artists to showcase their work and also sell it online and interface their own websites through our website.”

For more tactile pieces, like fiber arts, having art displayed over a website may present more of a barrier.

“It’s not totally gone, it’s just different,” Devriese said, noting that people who want to purchase a piece of art can try to contact the artist to make an appointment to see it in person.

One benefit of having art displayed virtually is that art lovers can virtually visit more artists than they would be able to if the event was only in person.

“During Art Trails or Art at the Source you get a map, it’s the weekend, you go ‘OK, I can visit five artists today,’ but you’re driving all over the county, you’re increasing your carbon footprint and it takes a lot of time to go and visit all of these artists. You can actually interface with more art using this online platform,” Glass said.

“I think it’s really important that we, in this time of pandemic and fires, continue to interface with our local community. That’s what this is about, our ability to continue to interface with and support our local community members, our local artists, our feeling of being part of a community. Unfortunately, too much in this situation we interface with the world — we’re interfacing with the global pandemic or riots in Portland or whatever, which is all very distressing, but it makes us feel more isolated from our own community,” Glass said. “Here you have an ability to continue to interface with and be a part of our community, see people you know are a part of our community and see their works and have it reflect the nature in our community but also the issues in our community. We need to support our artists because we don’t want Amazon to be the victor of COVID, we want our community to stay intact.”

To view the art being displayed as part of SAVOS, visit the website:

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