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Revisit the '60s with two museum exhibits in Sonoma County

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‘60s EXHIBITS

What: “The Hippies,” presented by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society

When: 1-4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, through March

Where: West County Museum, 261 S. Main St., Sebastopol

Admission: Free

Information: 707-829-6711, wschsgrf.org

What: “The Beat Goes On: Peace, Love and Rock and Roll in the North Bay”

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday through April 2. Opening reception 5-7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: History Museum of Sonoma County, 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa.

Admission: $7-$10; 12 and younger free. $15 for opening reception.

Information: 707-579-1500, sonomacountymuseum.org.

The cultural revolution of the 1960s sent shock waves throughout the nation and around the world, but it was felt acutely in Sonoma County, where communal life flourished and San Francisco’s explosive music scene was influential.

With the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love coming up next year, two local museums are tapping into the zeitgeist with exhibits of photos, posters and more.

“The Hippies” opened in October and runs until March at the West County Museum in Sebastopol, an exhibit devoted to two famous local communes. And “The Beat Goes On,” with a special emphasis on psychedelic concert posters, opens Sunday and runs through April 2 at the History of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa.

“‘The Hippies’ is the most popular exhibit in the history of the West County Museum,” founded in 1993, said Sue Pekarsky Gary, co-curator (with Erin Sheffield) of the show. “It might be extended.” The show focuses on Morning Star Ranch near Graton, a commune founded by Lou Gottlieb, bassist with the popular folk music trio The Limeliters, and the Coleman Valley property of famed painter Bill Wheeler. Both drew dwellers from throughout the state.

Gary said she did extensive research on local law enforcement and government efforts to control or close the communes, and created a detailed timeline to accompany the exhibit.

“It was a very volatile time,” she said. “The open-land policy at Morning Star and Wheeler’s drew people to move there. The opportunity to create and live in an ideal society was captivating to a generation fueled by love and peace. “Some would call it anarchy; many found it to be paradise,” Gary added. “Various county agencies and the sheriff’s department made many visits to both ranches, resulting in constant legal battles on a variety of fronts.”

The exhibit includes 75 photographs and illustrations, plus artifacts including a teepee used by commune residents.

“And the Beat Goes On” at the History Museum of Sonoma County features 50 posters, including the work of ’60s poster art star and longtime Sonoma County resident Stanley Mouse, and posters for milestone events at venues such as the Fillmore in San Francisco and the Monterey Pop Festival.

“The focus of the exhibit is the ’60s rock music revolution, with a particular emphasis on its legacy in the North Bay,” said Eric Stanley, history curator at the museum. Venues highlighted include the once-legendary Inn of the Beginning in Cotati.

The exhibit will display photographs that include 18 shots by photographer Herb Green of the Grateful Dead, Grace Slick and others in 1966 at Olompali State Park, where the band lived briefly in the ’60s. There also will be a smaller display of guitars and sound equipment from that era.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com; @danarts.

‘60s EXHIBITS

What: “The Hippies,” presented by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society

When: 1-4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, through March

Where: West County Museum, 261 S. Main St., Sebastopol

Admission: Free

Information: 707-829-6711, wschsgrf.org

What: “The Beat Goes On: Peace, Love and Rock and Roll in the North Bay”

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday through April 2. Opening reception 5-7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: History Museum of Sonoma County, 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa.

Admission: $7-$10; 12 and younger free. $15 for opening reception.

Information: 707-579-1500, sonomacountymuseum.org.

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