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Art in Bloom

Napa Valley's Arts in April showcases contemporary work in new ways

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‘BEAUTY FROM ASHES’  The ‘Flower Bomb’ exhibit in Calistoga features Karen Lynn Ingalls’ - acrylic and ash collage ‘Beautiful Morning.’
  • ‘BEAUTY FROM ASHES’ The ‘Flower Bomb’ exhibit in Calistoga features Karen Lynn Ingalls’ acrylic and ash collage ‘Beautiful Morning.’

Creativity is blossoming in the Napa Valley.

For the past eight years, the region has welcomed spring with the month-long Arts in April showcase of exhibits and events that highlight local talent in world-class locations. In 2018, spring's sense of renewal is juxtaposed to the region's feelings of loss as the North Bay recovers from the destruction of October's wildfires. It's a duality that longtime Calistoga resident, director of ArtQuest at Santa Rosa High School and the new gallery owner Jan Sofie understands.

"Arts in April is a fabulous spring event in Napa Valley," says Sofie, who opened Sofie Contemporary Arts gallery in the heart of downtown Calistoga with her husband, Scott, in September 2017, one month before the Tubbs fire forced the evacuation of the entire town. "However, under the circumstances we have this new reality to face [after] the fire," she says. "What we really need to do is not to pretend it didn't happen, but to say, 'It's spring, it's beautiful, we can rise again.'"

When it opened, Sofie Contemporary Arts' mission was to give a meaningful venue for new art that is diverse in media, styles and approaches. Sofie adds that all the art shown in the gallery is in some way connected to California, and often to Calistoga specifically, be it subject- or artist-related. "The tagline we use is 'Contemporary, California, Calistoga,'" she says.

Part of that ideal includes involvement in Arts in April. For Calistoga's celebratory weekend, known as "Sarafornia," that kicks off Arts in April each year, Sofie Contemporary Arts hosts the annual "Flower Bomb" exhibit April 6–8, with an opening reception April 5, in which floral designers create arrangements paired with pieces of art.

Rather than pair the flowers with classic or well-known paintings as in years past, Sofie is inviting the florists to create arrangements that respond to a larger exhibit, "Artist Spring: The Fire & the Rose Are One," that features works by 15 Northern California artists which both reflect on last year's fires and offer a sense of resurgence and rebirth.

Artists featured in the show include Karen Lynn Ingalls, whose studio was lost in the Tubbs fire. Ingalls' new paintings incorporate ashes from her studio in acrylic landscapes that appear to emerge from the ruins.

Calistoga's "Sarafornia" weekend also commemorates the town's grassroots artistic spirit with the interactive ENGAGE Art Fair at the Napa County Fairgrounds, April 6–8, and the Storytelling Speakeasy at Tank Garage Winery on April 7.

"I've always been enamored with the idea that when we create something, we can change things," says Sofie. "Now we can make something and create change that is meaningful even if, and especially because, we recognize the intensity of what we've gone through as a community."

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