Excursions North: Ten of the North Bay’s Must-See Art Events this Fall

A dancer in "The Way of the Rain"

Sibylle Szaggars Redford's "The Way of the Rain," in Yountville, will feature a performance by her husband, Robert Redford. Photo by Jason Koerner.

FAll arts preview 2014Across the bridge to Marin, Napa and Sonoma Counties, lies a quieter atmosphere with a more rural arts culture, albeit one rich in creativity and unafraid to occasionally push the envelope. With the goal of providing a diverse range of the most compelling events in wine country, we’ve pared down the next three months to the absolute must-dos and must-sees north of the Golden Gate. Here are ten reasons to build some extra time into your North Bay weekend excursion this fall.

1. Simon Pyle, “2013-07-09 14.54.11.jpg,” 2014.
1. Simon Pyle, “2013-07-09 14.54.11.jpg,” 2014.

Ones and Zeros

Through Sept. 28
Di Rosa, Napa
Tickets and information

The gorgeous di Rosa preserve in Napa presents seven contemporary artists who reflect on how technological developments are shaping our lives. The exhibit’s work ranges from that of award-winning Bay Area artist Simon Pyle, who holds up a literal magnifying glass to the modern world’s ubiquitous digital screen; to pieces by Aaron Finnis, who became known for adhering acrylic prints onto furniture surfaces from IKEA. The exhibition’s artists – including Charles Gute, Matt Lipps, Sanaz Mazinani, Stephanie Syjuco and Margo Wolowiec — don’t necessarily work in the digital realm, but like everybody living in the year 2014, they’re certainly surrounded by it. (NOTE: Make sure to call ahead and check to see if the gallery is open, as it was reportedly damaged in the recent earthquake.)

2. Eddie Ray Jackson as Muhammad Ali.
Eddie Ray Jackson as Muhammad Ali. Photo by Ed Smith

Fetch Clay, Make Man

Through Sept. 7
Marin Theatre Co., Mill Valley
Tickets and information

Marin Theatre Company – the North Bay’s most consistently rewarding theater group — presents the West Coast premiere of SWill Power’s new play, which examines the unexpected but historically based camaraderie between Muhammad Ali and Stepin Fetchit, whose 1930s film persona became synonymous with racial stereotyping. Directed by Derrick Saunders, a newcomer to the area who turned heads with August Wilson’s Fences at MTC in the spring, the script recalls the freer, more undefined roles in the civil rights era, when a black firebrand like Ali (Eddie Ray Jackson) could befriend a dubious celebrity like Fetchit — played here by Roscoe Gorman, beloved for his role as Gordon on Sesame Street.

3. Crowds gather in Marinship Park for the Sausalito Art Festival.
Crowds gather for the Sausalito Art Festival.

Sausalito Art Festival

Aug. 30-Sept. 1
Marinship Park, Sausalito
Tickets and information

Now in its 62nd year, this venerable outdoor festival showcases the work of over 260 artists in Sausalito’s waterfront Marinship Park. Painting, sculpture, mixed media, digital media, fiber, photography, printmaking, woodworking… It’s all here, with a breezy, wear-your-big-floppy-hat atmosphere and live music right on the water. Live entertainment includes Taj Mahal, Jackie Greene, Tower of Power and more. And the fabulously strange Bay Model, a gigantic working model of the San Francisco Bay created by the Army Corps of Engineers and housed in a warehouse-sized room, is right on site.

A houseboat on Sausalito’s Issaquah dock.
A houseboat on Sausalito’s Issaquah dock.

The Artistry of Waterfront Living

Sept. 20
Richardson Bay, Sausalito
Tickets and information

Everyone’s got a touch of voyeurism. To those of us for whom this streak extends to other people’s homes, re-watching Rear Window isn’t enough. Enter the Sausalito Floating Homes Tour, which annually invites looky-loos of all stripes into the unique houseboats of Richardson Bay. Some custom-built for the water, others repurposed ships, the houseboats’ unusual shapes and features stand in defiance of the modern suburban tract. Sausalito’s houseboat community has long been an enclave for artists, so in addition to the architectural marvels, expect to see private studios and collections on the tour.

Trombone Shorty.
Trombone Shorty will perform in Guerneville.

Russian River Blues & Jazz Festival

Sept. 20-21
Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville
Tickets and information

Perpetually stuck in the 1950s, Johnson’s Beach, in Guerneville, features wooden restrooms, Catskills-style resort cabins, and dirt-cheap prices at the snack bar. Once a year, it hosts this festival, which has featured everyone from Chet Baker to B.B. King over the years. This year’s lineup includes the dynamic New Orleans firebrand Trombone Shorty, modern Texas blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr., Oakland-bred soul singer Goapele, funk bassist Larry Graham and others over a two-day stretch. Surrounded by redwoods and lined directly by the Russian River, the setting is pure West Sonoma County. Bring a towel and a swimsuit, and take advantage of those concession prices while they last — this classic beach resort just went up for sale.

Lupita Nyong'o at the 2013 Mill Valley Film Festival.
Lupita Nyong’o at the 2013 Mill Valley Film Festival.

Mill Valley Film Festival

Oct. 2-12
Various Marin County theaters
Tickets and information

Always ahead of the curve, this widely hailed film festival unfailingly hosts anticipated premieres in advance of their for-your-consideration December release, along with an impressive slate of stars. Though this year’s schedule isn’t announced until Sept. 9, the 2013-fest hosted Ben Stiller, Dakota Fanning, Lupita Nyong’o, Jared Leto, Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor and more, including the members of Metallica. Excellently programmed, the festival is perfect chance to get acquainted with the films and stars that everyone will be talking about come Oscar season.

A Miami performance of </em>The Way of the Rain.</em>
Dancers, “The Way of the Rain.” Photo by Jason Koerner

Sibylle Szaggars Redford, The Way of the Rain

Oct. 18
Lincoln Theater, Yountville
Tickets and information

Sibylle Szaggars Redford describes herself as an environmental artist, though the average Joe would probably just call her the wife of Robert Redford. Not to live in her husband’s shadow, she’s crafted this intriguing homage to the planet Earth that combines dance and music amidst her own colorful hanging tapestries, or “rain paintings.” Conjuring the unifying themes of nature through choreography, live music (flute, vibraphone, cello, piano), projections and lighting, the show gets a big boost with spoken word by Robert Redford himself.

Joshua Bell. Photo by Eric Kabik
Joshua Bell. Photo by Eric Kabik

Joshua Bell in Recital

Oct. 24
Wells Fargo Center, Santa Rosa
Tickets and information

It was a story that was born to go viral: the morning that violin phenomenon Joshua Bell performed in a Washington, D.C., subway station, dressed discreetly as a regular busker, and watched as commuters rushed past, too busy to witness world-class musicianship. The Grammy-Award winner made a whopping $32 in change and small bills tossed into his open violin case. When Bell appears in Santa Rosa with pianist Alessio Bax, expect slightly more recognition when the two perform sonatas for violin and piano by Schubert, Grieg and Prokofiev. Ever the populist, the violinist promises to autograph programs and recordings in the lobby afterward.

Laurie Anderson
The ever-unpredictable Laurie Anderson.

Laurie Anderson, Language of the Future

Oct. 25
Green Music Center, Rohnert Park
Tickets and information

Whether she’s lecturing, singing, performing electronic music, or just hanging herself upside down in the street by her ankles, Laurie Anderson never fails to surprise. The quintessential noisy New Yorker, Anderson has introduced an element of calm into her personal life (she collaborated recently with the San Francisco Zen Center), but don’t let that fool you into thinking her live act will be meditative or quiet. In a touring show called The Language of the Future (the phrase comes from her 1983 work United States), Anderson dwells on what kind of terrorism, exactly, is happening in America. Over the past year, the NSA, Edward Snowden, drones and immigration have cropped up as themes in the show, which, in trademark Anderson fashion, is always subject to change. With her electronic violin, laptop,and rotating cast of musicians, Anderson consistently inspires deeper questions about the world we live in.

Turk Murphy and Lu Watters at a PG&E protest on Bodega Head.
Turk Murphy and Lu Watters at a protest on Bodega Head. Photo Courtesy Sonoma County Library

The Hole in the Head

Nov. 1–Feb. 8
Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa
Tickets and information

Anyone who’s been to the Sonoma Coast can hardly believe their ears when they hear that PG&E once planned a nuclear power plant right on the shores of Bodega Head. But in the late ’60s, such a project got as far as the excavation process before a steady stream of activists finally shut it down. This mammoth exhibit encompasses art, music, video and artifacts related to the protests, which often included San Francisco Dixieland revivalists Turk Murphy and Lu Watters playing anti-nuclear jazz to the PG&E crews working on the scenic coastline. The first of its kind, the exhibit explores the roots of an environmental movement that coalesced under what’s now viewed as an insane proposal.

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