It’s official. Beginning March 1, Becoming Independent, the nonprofit that serves some 1,110 developmentally disabled adults in the North Bay, is the proud new owner of what has been the A Street Gallery in Santa Rosa. A Street owner, artist Andrea Hibbard, has run her innovative gallery for a miraculous eight years and is ready to do something for herself for a change. “The thought was that I could retire and go back to my art studio and do some traveling and I wanted to take the momentum that we built here and shift it to something that was really important to me,” Hibbard says. “This will be a fusion gallery of artists in the main community coupled with artists in the mainstream working together."
A Street has long made it a tradition to host an annual exhibit by the BI artists, who have an extensive art facility at the nonprofit’s home campus and an innovative Art Works program there that Hibbard helped to launch and which is coordinated by former Arts Council executive director Barbara Harris. Hibbard feels assured that this will be a postive step for the entire community. “I’ll still be on the advisory board and advise them on installation. We don’t want to drop our aesthetic ball. We will make sure that this continues to be a great space to visit.”“Outsider art,” that which is created by artists with no formal training, is enjoying a vogue. Viewers find themselves captivated by the honesty portrayed in work done by the developmentally disabled. The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art last year held a superb exhibit of such work. Having a permanent public outlet for BI is a dream come true for Hibbard. “We do a lot of editing in our lives,” she says. “They’re more able to be free of critics and desires—for critics, for fame, for attention—even thought the artists really enjoy when they sell. They’re not trapped. There is a kind of a freedom, and in some ways, they’re mentors.”
The gallery is yet unnamed and will open to the public on April 19. As for Hibbard, it’s the best of both worlds. “People think that it’s generous, but it’s really quite selfish,” she laughs happily. “This is the bomb for me.”