Finding a venue for both indoor and outdoor art installations, where foot traffic is high, is an art and nature curator’s dream. Last fall, a start up organization called Art at the Cheese Factory, invited me to guest curator the inaugural show at an historic cheese factory in Marin County, 45 minutes North of the Golden Gate Bridge. When I found out that foot traffic at the Marin Cheese Factory is 150,000 visitors a year, my immediate response was “lets do it.” I cannot tell you how many times I have organized group shows, working with over twenty artists, and then have 2,000 people actually come see the show during a two month viewing. It is so much work that I often wonder to myself “why do I do this?” After curating Hybrid Fields in 2006, in Sonoma County, I realized that art and agriculture, combined, are a regional favorite that captures the interest of both foodies and art lovers. Here where happy cows, goats, and sheep roam the hillsides, and vineyards abound, the real challenge has been engaging a culture of mostly landscape painters and object makers in a dialogue on the role that contemporary art can play in expanding the conversations on land and aesthetics. Not that there is isn’t an audience that can have this type of conversation, it has mostly been a resistance to what is perceived as an urban or “city” conversation. During a visit to the UK a little over a year ago, what intrigued me was the commitment by the government to support not only the arts in rural areas, but to also raise the level of conversation about the role rural populations play in the larger culture. It is almost as if the artist has been sent from the Art World to acknowledge what remains of the rural lifestyle that existed say in the 1950s and 60s. And, then there is the history of the place that intrigues the artist. Who lived there and why, their stories. These rich remains in rural areas are savored by artists.
Terroir: A Sense of Place is an exhibition of 28 artists from the Bay Area who through paintings, photography, sculpture, installations, and performative events offer their take on a relationship with soil, air, and water; all the elements that make up our watersheds, ecosystems, and local environment.
For more information go to the exhibition blog at http://artatthecheesefactory.blogspot.com