Last weekend, ArtStart, a Santa Rosa-based non-profit educational arts organization, conducted the installation of a large mural that wraps around the waiting room of the Rohnert Park Senior Center. The art to beautify the center was made possible by a $4,900 grant ArtStart received from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program. Part of the grant money will also go towards creating mosaic art onto a bench in front of the senior center that will be installed once the weather improves.
“We were told about the grant opportunity and that the senior center could really use a mural or some kind of artistic facelift because they will be doing a lot of upgrading to the site,” said Jennifer Mygatt Tatum, Creative Director for ArtStart. “So what we proposed is that we do a mural in the entryway to feel connected from the inside to the outside. Especially as a senior citizen, you’re coming to this place where you may feel separated from the world and you want to feel part of a community. I thought we could also do a mosaic on the bench out front that is also connected to the mural that’s inside. So whether you’re coming or going it’s a message that the worlds are connected.”
Three lead artists for ArtStart created designs, which were then voted on by the Rohnert Park Senior Center Council. Angelina Duckett’s mosaic design was chosen for the mosaic bench and Lily Hourigan’s design was chosen for the mural. Both designs feature a sunrise and a landscape featuring redwood trees, poppies and lupine flowers.
Besides Duckett, Hourigan, and Hannah Day, the Lead Assistant on both art projects, they also had approximately 12 high school volunteer artists from Credo High School, Art Quest, Roseland Prep and others around the county who assisted them in completing the art work.
“I love the idea of making this room really beautiful for the senior citizens who come here,” said Satleen Gill, Credo High School 9th grader and resident of Rohnert Park.
“It’s also a fun way to get community service hours in,” said Claire Chaussee, Penngrove resident and 9th grader at Casa Grande High School.
ArtStart’s mission is to provide job training and mentoring by way of stimulating arts work experience for Sonoma County youth, while creating public art for the community.
“ArtStart has been around for about 19 years,” says Tatum. “It was started by two parents whose kids were in the local high school and were artists and they wanted to create something to get the kids started in their art career before they get out of high school. They wanted something where their kids, and other kids too, could learn how to create public art in the community and learn the business aspect of how to be an artist beyond being a studio artist.”
Over time the organization evolved, but it has kept to its core mission. Some of the projects in which they train young artists currently include benches which can be found all over Sonoma County at bus stops and in Santa Rosa parks including Prince Memorial, Finley, Julliard, and Howarth, and along the sidewalks of Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Sonoma and beyond. They have also created murals in both public and private spaces and mosaics on walls, steps and sculptural works such as the well-known fish sculpture in Santa Rosa’s Prince Memorial Park. ArtStart also hires apprentices, young people ranging from 13 to 21 years old, to work under the mentorship of professional artists to create public and private art.
Artstart has worked closely with the City of Santa Rosa to create public art for city-owned properties. Through the Art in Public Places program, Artstart completed many artworks for community enjoyment. Currently, the organization has been working on a new project using art to bring awareness to the connection between streets and creeks in an attempt to keep our creeks, an important part of our local environment and water system, clean.
“We started a project this summer with the creek stewardship program which is funded by the City of Santa Rosa,” says Tatum. “The project is called Art on the Streets for Cleaner Creeks. Students in our summer program painted these fish which are then installed on storm drains which are linked to the creeks.”
The hope is that the hand-painted fish labels placed around inlets to the storm drain system will inspire residents to help prevent pollution from entering the drains which flow into the nearest creek. This project will be the first of its kind created for the 175,000 citizens, 18,000 storm drains and 100-mile network of creeks in Santa Rosa. So far five projects have been installed on storm drains in the Historic Railroad Square District as the pilot program’s first fish labels.
Another future local project ArtStart will be working on is painting two benches near the new bocce ball court in Rohnert Park, which is scheduled to be installed this spring. For any youth, or adults, who would like to get involved in ArtStart or any of their projects Tatum suggests contacting the organization or attending one of their designated volunteer days to learn more about how they can participate.
“Anyone can volunteer as long as they have an interest and a background in art, just some sense of art,” says Tatum. “But I think we all have an innate sense of art – we don’t turn anyone away. We have our drop-in volunteer days Wed. from 3 to 5 at 716 Bennett Valley Road. It’s a great way to see who we are and what we’re up to. We do welcome volunteers on projects and in any aspect of ArtStart.”