On the wall art

Off to Davis on Thursday for a day trip with the Oakland Museum Art Guild.  We were going to visit the art walk–the 35 square blocks of downtown Davis are adorned with dozens of murals and sculptures.  Our walk was led by John Natsoulas, a UC Davis graduate who runs a hugely successful gallery in town and has worked tirelessly to make the city a major art center.

We started in his gallery, which is on the first corner you see when you get off the freeway.

John Natsoulas, fountain of energy, talking about the art in his gallery.

John Natsoulas, fountain of energy, talking about the art in his gallery.

 

Here’s a photo gallery of what we saw just in his building:

We were also accompanied by Phil Linhares, retired curator of the Oakland Museum.  These day trips are fascinating, and we always have experts along to increase our understanding of what we are seeing.

Phil Linhares

Phil Linhares

Then we went out onto the streets of Davis.  There are many murals, which John has commissioned, worked on, assisted with, planned and/or orchestrated.  Each mural or sculpture is accompanied by a plaque with a QR code that will bring up a video about the work.  The works also have RFID chips in them which some newer phones will read automatically to find the videos.  The murals are all coated with anti-graffiti clearcoat, but there is still considerable maintenance required.

After lunch, we went on-campus to the library, which John has worked tirelessly to fill with great art.  This isn’t the library I studied in years ago, it is a new building reflecting modern life–every table has a power strip, every student seems to have a computer open for work and an iPhone plugged in for music.

The works of art are amazing, reflecting the incredible output of the art department and its professors, like Robert Arneson, one of the seminal ceramic artists of our time.

Finally, we ran out of time long before we ran out of art. We were exhausted with all we had seen and tried to assimilate. John was still full of energy, talking about every piece, its history, provenance, background and artist. His knowledge of Northern California art is encyclopedic–but then, he knew most of the artists as personal friends and mentors, and continues to be wholly involved. Davis is fortunate to have someone like him, who wants to fill the streets and wall with the best art money can’t buy.

Davis is clearly not the boring town it was when I was a student–go up for lunch some day and just walk around downtown looking at all the walls, click on the QR codes and see the videos, check out the gallery and then go find the library–you’ll get a college education in fine art in a day.

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