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Charm City

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Moms love Healdsburg. And why not? The town centering Northern Sonoma County’s wine and tourism industry is as quaint as they come, with galleries, tasting rooms and all manner of gift shops lining a plaza so picturesque it feels like it could reside on Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A.

It wouldn’t hurt the rest of us to see Healdsburg through mom’s eyes; to slow at the shop windows, stroll through the park and take time selecting samples at the ice cream parlor. That’s just what this reporter did last weekend, and found all manner of art and fun for any age.

Beginning at the Northwest corner of the Healdsburg Plaza and moving clockwise, the first shop window to entice a closer look is the Ferrari-Carano’s Seasons of the Vineyard Wine Shop, located in the middle of Plaza Street. The boutique shop and wine bar features brightly colored seasonal home décor like the kitschy Gurgle Pot, a wine pitcher shaped like a fish, and ceramics—resembling Tuscon tableware—by Virginia Casa. The boutique’s wine bar pours Ferrari-Carano and Lazy Creek Vineyards wines, with chocolate pairings available. The current showcase of art by British painter Sam Toft is a particular highlight, featuring a cartoonish character, Mr. Mustard, and his gaggle of pets embarking on various outings.

The next stop is the Healdsburg Center for the Arts, located along the town’s narrowest sidewalk (what’s up with that?) a block east on Plaza Street. The non-profit organization has promoted the arts through community education programs, events and exhibitions for over 25 years, and resided at its current location since 2002. The Sonoma Land Trust sponsors the current exhibit—a group show, “The Great Outdoors,” featuring over 20 artists displaying all manner of paintings, photographs and multi-media works depicting nature—in the center’s main gallery space.

One artist is 15-year-old Santa Rosa resident Vijay Kareesan, whose artist statement, hanging next to two fine paintings, explains that he wants to sell paintings to help Sonoma and California fire victims, the Humane Society and St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, among other causes.

Kareesan may likely be a part of the Healdsburg Center for the Arts’ next exhibit as well, as the center’s “2019 Emerging Artists” show opens on Oct. 26. The exhibit is part of a larger Emerging Artist Sponsorship Program, in which, through the generous support of private donors, the HCA offers an opportunity for new emerging artists to regularly exhibit and sell their work at HCA as they learn about the business of art and develop their resumes.

The next shop on this plaza tour is Mr. Moon’s—a diverse gift, novelty, stationary and clothing store currently packed with masquerade masks and kids’ costumes as well as jewelry, bath and body works, and other accessories.

The 26-year-old Healdsburg store on Center Street is actually the store’s second location, after Patty Timmsen opened the original Mr. Moon’s in Calistoga in 1982. Now, Patty runs the Healdsburg store with daughter Jessica, offering an ever-changing array of fun merchandise.

A few doors down sits another family-owned and operated enterprise with a long history in Healdsburg—Levin & Company Bookstore. Founded by Adele Levin, her partner Jacquie Robb and her son Aaron Rosewater in 1991, the bookstore sells new and used books, but also houses a selection of vintage vinyl, CDs, tapes, greeting cards and more.

As an added bonus, the Upstairs Art Gallery shares space with Levin & Company, literally located on the mezzanine level at the back of the store. The gallery currently shows works by featured artist Susan Greer and Karen Miller. Greer’s “Conversations with Nature,” a collection of the North Bay native’s minimalist landscape paintings, reflects the calming quality of open spaces in Sonoma and Marin. Miller’s small works show, “Quiet Places: Sonoma County in Pastels,” also features contemplative and serene works. Both artists will attend their respective exhibit’s artist receptions, taking place on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 2pm with bites and local refreshments.

South of the Plaza, art lovers must take in the Paul Mahder Gallery on Healdsburg Avenue, which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and which currently exhibits a “2019 Fall Salon” that features work from over 40 artists from around the world on display through November. Art comes in another form at the Hand Fan Museum, which displays hand fans of exquisite beauty from around the world and tells the story of femininity through the ages.

Dads, of course, can and often do enjoy these same exhibits and offerings, and even if they don’t, there’s still Bear Republic Brewing Company. The Company’s original brewpub in downtown Healdsburg remains one of the region’s best casual spots for cold beer, burgers and other delicious fare. It even books brewery tours by appointment on Saturdays, and the relaxing outdoor beer garden is an oasis of chill vibes.

Anyone can also enjoy the many meats and frozen custard of the Wurst Restaurant on Matheson Street, owned and operated by former touring musician and longtime Healdsburg resident Charles Bell, who revived his passion for cooking by opening the restaurant in 2011 after surviving late-stage throat cancer.

Barbecue aficionados are sure to check out KINsmoke on Center Street, where longtime Sonoma County residents JC Adams and Brad Barmore combine their decades of restaurant work into an elevated barbecue experience.

Finally, no trip to Healdsburg Plaza is complete without a stop into Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar, where the menu easily conquers even the most stubborn sweet tooth. Founded by Sonoma County natives Christian Sullberg and Ozzy Jimenez of Moustache Baked Goods, the parlor is dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind treats, but that’s just one aspect of the organization. Both Sullberg and Jimenez give back to the community through involvement in groups like nonprofit Positive Images, providing mental health support to LGBTQ+ youth, and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, which supports Latino entrepreneurs.

Other Healdsburg Highlights

The Raven Players The resident theater company of the Raven Performing Arts Theater on North Street is a community theater that presents both family-friendly fare and challenging stage plays that reflect and celebrate the North Bay’s diverse community.

Under artistic director Steven David Martin, the Raven Players just wrapped the classic dark comedy Arsenic & Old Lace, and they now change gears with the emotionally powerful drama, The Laramie Project, an examination of the horrifying hate-crime murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard in 1998 outside of Laramie, Wisconsin. While that crime rocked the world, the producers of the Laramie Project spent weeks in the town of Laramie gathering the very personal reflections of those closest to the crime, and The Laramie Project features 10 actors taking on over 30 roles of the locals, using their actual words. The Laramie Project runs Oct. 18–Nov. 3 at the Raven Theater. (Raventheater.org)

Alexander Valley Film Festival Returning to Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale over four days, the fifth annual festival presented by the Alexander Valley Film Society once again screens feature-length, short and documentary films between Oct. 17 and Oct. 20.

The AV Film Festival’s selection of films playing at the Raven Film Center on Center Street includes The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, a feature documentary about the world’s first “giraffologist,” Dr. Anne Innis Dagg; Parasite, the Cannes Palme d’Or-winning thriller from South Korean auteur Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer); Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a French romantic drama about an 18th-century female painter charged with painting a wedding portrait of a young woman; and Unsettled, a feature-length documentary that follows LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers who fled their home countries due to persecution and who resettle in the U.S., which screens in a special, closing-night event.

As always, the festival supports Alexander Valley Film Society’s ongoing, year-round educational and cultural programming that reaches over 5,000 North Bay residents and engages over 1,000 students. (avfilmsociety.org)

Art Trails in Healdsburg For 35 years, Sonoma County Art Trails has invited the public to venture out on countywide, self-guided tours to visit artist studios and view their work. Beloved for providing direct access to art and those who make it, this year’s Art Trails, happening consecutive weekends on Oct. 12–13 and Oct. 19–20, features 140 artists opening their doors at locations from Petaluma to Cloverdale, and Occidental to Boyes Hot Springs, including close to a dozen artists showing their art in Healdsburg.

Stone sculptor T Barny creates works that beg for an explanation, with pieces that move with the graceful flow of a Mobius strip. Mixed-media painter MC Carolyn explores both cultural and natural history in works that combine stunning colors and intricate details. Large-scale abstract artist Sargam Griffin, born in Germany and now residing among the North Bay’s vineyards, celebrates local sights, light and consciousness with paintings composed of at least 40 layers of paint, varnish and resin.

Jenny Lynn Hall also works in large abstract works, using plasters and oils to create works that bridge the gap between fine art and ornate decorative appeal.

Sonoma County Art Trails also features Healdsburg artists Dana Hawley, Willow LaLand-Yeilding, Jamie L. Luoto, Nancy Morgan, Michael Rosen, Donna Schaffer and Robert Weiss. Studios are open 10am to 5pm, Oct. 12–13 and Oct. 19–20. Artist’s maps are available online. (sonomacountyarttrails.org)

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