North Bay Students Curate Online Art Show on Theme of Belonging

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"Galaxy of Colors" by St Helena High student Jesus Garcia is viewable in a virtual youth art exhibit via Napa Valley Museum.
  • "Galaxy of Colors" by St Helena High student Jesus Garcia is viewable in a virtual youth art exhibit via Napa Valley Museum.

Located on the grounds of the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, the Napa Valley Museum closed its doors in mid-March to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s more, due to the virus-vulnerable residents who live at the Veterans Home, it’s unlikely that the museum will be able to open on the same timeline as other venues.

“They haven’t had any (Covid-19) cases among the veterans which is wonderful, but they’re understandably very protective,“ says Laura Rafaty, Executive Director of Napa Valley Museum. “And then there’s a lot of (Covid-19 related) retrofitting that has to get done before we can reopen; things like the elevator, stairwells and the gift shop, we can’t have people touching things. It’s going to be a very different environment and we are going to work our way through that.”

The closure means the museum’s current exhibit of visual works by actor and activist Lucy Liu, “One of these things is not like the others,” is currently sitting in the dark until the museum reopens, at which time the exhibit will run through October.

The closure also means that the museum’s planned student-curated youth art exhibition in April was delayed until now; transformed into a virtual exhibit available to view on the Napa Valley Museum website.

“We had this student exhibition scheduled for April, but suddenly the kids were out of school and most of this artwork was stranded in the school building without a way to physically get at it,” Rafaty says. Once the museum could get the works in hand, the plan became to show the artwork virtually and, if possible, to display the pieces physically at the museum once it can reopen.

“The opportunity to have your work seen in a museum is so impactful for kids,” Rafaty says. “We don’t want to miss that, and at the same time, this is maybe a chance for people who would never physically get to our museum to see the work of these talented artists from the North Bay.”

The now-virtual exhibit, titled “Not From Around Here,” is the fourth annual youth art show that the museum presents in partnership with Napa’s Justin-Siena High School visual arts department.

The goal of the annual exhibit is to present diverse artwork centered on a timely or personal topic, and this year’s theme aims to raise questions within the student artists’ minds, “about our sense of belonging somewhere or to something.”

Nearly 30 student artists are participating in this year’s online exhibit, representing Justin-Siena High School, Vintage High School, The Oxbow School, Saint Helena High School, Marin Catholic High School and Novato High/Marin School of the Arts.

The works on display include paintings, photography, collage and assemblage and drawings that explicitly or abstractly tackle the topics of identity and society as it relates to the theme. In addition to the art, students write an accompanying artist statement that speaks to their intent.

“When you look at the statements, you get that sense of some of them asking, ‘Who am I?’” Rafaty says. “Being different, being out of place, that seems to be a theme that goes through this.”

Led by a panel of student jurors and curatorial teams, this is a youth exhibit through and through. The young artists even decide where to hang the work in the museum normally.

“Our team gets to work with the kids and see how they envision this, and sometimes they do things that we might not have thought to do that are really impactful,” Rafaty says. “We’re really missing that with the virtual exhibit.”

In addition to viewing the work online, virtual visitors are encouraged to vote online for the exhibit’s “People's Choice” award and to donate to the museum’s efforts to reopen its galleries and educational programs.

Napa Valley Museum’s fourth annual student-curated exhibit, “Not from Around Here,” is on view virtually now through July 31 at napavalleymsuem.org.

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