July 16, 2020
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Student artists needed for public art project in Rohnert Park

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
February 21, 2020

Artstart, a non-profit educational arts organization, is currently inviting any interested teen artists in Rohnert Park, ages 14 to 20, to submit designs, two of which will be painted on benches at the Roberts Lake Dog Park. The public art project is being made possible through a $5,000 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program.  

“I had reached out to the city to find out what Rohnert Park needs and what areas might need some attention,” says Jennifer Tatum, Creative Director of Artstart. “I found out there was a dog park and did a little research in the background of the park and thought ‘you can never have enough places to sit down!’ I said I would like to have the students from Rohnert Park be the ones to design it and paint it with the guidance of lead artists from Artstart.”

Student artists have until March 28 to submit their designs, which will then be juried by both Artstart lead artists and Rohnert Park City officials. Artists are encouraged to stay within specific themes which include various dog breeds; five-term Mayor Arthur N. Roberts after whom the park is named; species of fish found in Roberts Lake (rainbow trout, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, carp and largemouth bass); the story of the Fishing Derby event; or nature.

The chosen designs will be awarded $100 each.

All interested student artists, even those whose designs were not chosen, are invited to help paint the designs onto the benches with the help of Artstart lead artists. All design, prep and painting will be done at the new Artstart warehouse on 317 Sutton Place in Santa Rosa.

“We’re off Todd Road now so our proximity to Rohnert Park is much closer,” says Tatum. “It makes more sense to start working with all the high schools in Rohnert Park. So, we’ve been reaching out to all the schools that are close by.”

Artstart is hoping to have the benches completed and installed by this summer. The two park benches will be made of long-lasting wooden slats and steel legs and are sure to not only bring beauty but also an opportunity for park visitors to rest for decades to come. 

Artstart started about twenty years ago with a mission to provide job training and mentoring by way of stimulating arts work experience for Sonoma County youth, while creating public art for the community. They have completed many projects throughout Sonoma County including many colorful benches at bus stops and in parks, public murals, mosaics on walls and steps, sculptural works and currently an environmental art project, “Art on Streets for Cleaner Creeks”, that brings awareness to the connections between our streets and waterways through painting storm drains.

Every Wed. and Thurs. from 4 to 6 p.m. Artstart has drop in sessions at their studio, where youth from 14 to 20 can participate in public art projects. Not only do the students gain an opportunity to help create art and work with Bay Area artists, they also earn community service hours. No prior experience is necessary. For more information on Artstart’s winter session or to submit a design for the park benches, contact Artstart at 707-546-2345 or

“Those projects that the students get involved in are community service based, and then whatever projects we have going on we pull them in on,” says Tatum. “What I most look forward to is the collaboration of mentor and apprentice, engaging and educating and connecting through the arts…I hope to open the doors for teens in public art. It’s a great way for them to learn that this is one way that they can get a message out into the world about whatever they are passionate about.”