Why wasn’t local art on brochure?
If a community were to be defined by visual art, would it be defined by the art it produces or by the art it embraces?
One might assume that they are one in the same, but that’s not necessarily the case. I have long wondered, considering Nevada County’s picturesque beauty, both natural and man-made, its proximity to a spreading metropolitan area that also happens to contain the State Capitol, its status as a vacation getaway, and the hundreds of artists who make their home here, why are the streets of Nevada City and Grass Valley not lined with fine art galleries that sell the work of local artists?
Fortunately, there is Gallery II in Nevada City, an artists’ cooperative that survives mainly by the hard work and financial support of the members who show their work there. And thanks to Pioneer Arts, an organization nearly 40 years old, many businesses and restaurants exhibit for sale the art of local talent.
This article has long been in the planning stages, but the final push came a few days ago when I picked up a brochure for the Nevada City Art Walk, Feb. 9. The painting used for the front of the publication looked at first glance like a genre painting of a Nevada City snow scene, possibly done by a friend of mine, someone I could stop in the grocery store and say, ‘Hey, nice job!” But when I looked at the bottom and saw that it was a detail from a print by a major artist, I felt cheated on behalf of our whole art community.
I have nothing against prints by this artist, but I would think that there are dozens of very good painters here who would have been happy to donate artwork for a brochure about a local art event, just for the exposure. I certainly would have, had I been asked.
We who have worked to develop whatever talent we may have in order to produce something of beauty for all to enjoy feel we have been given a gift, and most of us take pleasure in sharing that gift. We tend to do things like donate artwork to organizations such as Hospice of the Foothills, Soroptimists, Nevada County Land Trust, Nevada City Schools, Animal Save, Nevada County Child Advocates, Nevada County Historical Society, many worthy causes.
Yes, we do get benefits in the form of name recognition and a network of wonderful friends and associates. But many of us feel that because we are able to produce something that can make money to enrich our community, we have a responsibility to do so. Letters of appreciation are very nice, but even nicer is when, given the choice of buying a print by a famous artist or a sincere original painting by a local artist, the collector remembers this and chooses the latter.
What is it that makes a city appreciate and support the artists who paint their quickly disappearing rural landscape, or record the appearance, past or present, of their downtown areas? Established art colonies like Laguna Beach, Carmel, Taos, Sedona – their light and color, the trees and land, may be different from Nevada County’s, but they are certainly no more lovely than what we see every day. Are we just a bedroom community for those who work in Sacramento and vacation abroad, or a place to stop for souvenirs on the way to Reno or Tahoe?
The landscape here is glorious, and paintings of it by local artists deserve to be sought after by not only our residents but by collectors from all over. And these collectors should travel here to buy them at fine galleries, while they stay in our hotels and dine in our restaurants.
We have an identity and we should not think that paintings from Europe, New York or San Francisco are necessarily better than locally painted ones. But then, maybe Nevada County paintings are prized by people in places like Sacramento, Marin, Los Angeles, Louisiana, and Florida – places where some of my work lives in private collections. Why, who knows, at this moment someone in France may be treasuring a painting of Nevada County. Ebay, here we come!
Marilyn Rose is a landscape painter who lives in Nevada City with her family.
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