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Petaluma Arts Center offers online and drive-by art shows, weekly podcast

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Like everyone else, the Petaluma Arts Center had made plans for the spring and summer. Then came the coronavirus pandemic and the statewide stay-home order and those plans suddenly became obsolete.

Now, after some initial scrambling, the center is as active as ever, with an online exhibit of student art, a drive-by art program for artists who want to display their work in their front yards and a weekly podcast on the experience of sheltering in place in Petaluma.

“The original theme for the student show was ‘Art Shapes the World,’” said Lindsey Goodwin, director of community engagement at the Petaluma Arts Center. “Then we said, ‘OK, we’re rolling with it,’ and we changed the theme to ‘Shelter in Place.’”

The seventh annual youth art exhibit opened with an online reception and will run indefinitely, featuring some 70 paintings, drawings, photos and other of artwork by Petaluma students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. The show is accessible at petalumaartscenter.org

“Pivoting our Youth Arts Exhibit to an online format has been no small feat, but it’s pretty cool to see all the different entries,” said Goodwin, who works with the center’s staff of just three part-time employees. The youth exhibit was handled by volunteer curator Kate Blakeslee.

“She’s done this program for the past several years,” Goodwin said.

Earlier this month, the arts center teamed up with audio ephemera, a Petaluma sound production company, to produce the new weekly Instagram podcast series “Sheltering in Petaluma,” featuring curated short audio segments with Petaluma residents telling the stories of their experiences during the pandemic. The program posts at 8 a.m. every Thursday at shelteringinpetaluma.org.

“These are specific stories about the Petaluma community coming to terms with the pandemic,” Goodwin said. “Any local person can participate.”

The Petaluma Art Center already started adapting its programming last month, when it initiated Art Apart, a drive-by art display with an interactive map available at petalumaartscenter.org that shows where artists have posted their work outside their homes for public view.

“We list the addresses and we give participating artists a yard sign with our logo,” Goodwin said. “We have artists showing work on porches or in yards and driveways. We currently have 27 locations on the Art Apart map. That number is growing, as we have handed out 30 yard signs and are ordering 20 more this week for additional locations.”

On top of all of that, the center conducted a drive to collect art supplies and distributed art kits to local residents stuck at home. The Petaluma Target store also donated gift cards for arts equipment and supplies.

“We absolutely miss our patrons, volunteers and regular interactions with our community. Being closed as a creative gathering space enabled us to think deeply about what a public arts center is, and can be, for our community,” Goodwin said.

“We feel that the Petaluma Arts Center is a conduit for creativity. As a conduit, we gather ideas, people and art and funnel that out to the public in the form of exhibits, events and education. We believe that art is important, most especially in times of distress, and we hope that our current programs reflect that spirit.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com.

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