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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Yolo Arts fosters community enrichment and connections through art and educational programming

The Gibson House and Property serves as a cultural hub for the Yolo community


By MARIA MARTINEZ CASTRO  — features@theaggie.org 


The Gibson House and Property is a historical Yolo County landmark that is officially recognized by the National Registry of Historic Places. It is situated within the city of Woodland, less than 15 miles away from the UC Davis Campus. 

Aside from being a nationally recognized historical landmark, the Gibson House is part of a county-wide effort connecting the community through art and education and is now managed by Yolo Arts

According to Alison Flory, Yolo Arts executive director, Yolo Arts is an organization dedicated to enriching people’s lives through art and advocating for diverse arts and cultural activities throughout the county. 

In 2019, Yolo Arts acquired the Gibson House and Property, which allowed the organization to have a physical space to organize and facilitate community-based programming, according to Flory. 

“It was kind of relaunching the property as a cultural center,” Flory said. “Bringing art, history and different things here to ideally bring more people in and new support to the facility and protect it moving forward.” 

The Gibson House and Property hosts spaces for community involvement and interaction. On the property, there are green gardens and an oak tree that is estimated to be 300 years old, according to the Yolo Arts website. Visitors can also explore a blacksmith and dairy shop that showcases artifacts used between 1850 and 1920. The property also features a mural created through the Yolo County High School Mural Competition, for which high school art classes in Yolo County submit design proposals that are chosen by Yolo Arts annually. 

According to Flory, Yolo Arts recognizes the power of art in fostering thriving communities. 

“Arts in general, not only does it contribute to quality of life in a community, but then it also goes beyond that,” Flory said. “It aids in schools in terms of academic achievement. There are connections to the value that arts play on our mental health [and] on creating strong relationships throughout our community.” 

In the Woodland community, Yolo Arts has two functioning art gallery spaces, Gallery 625 and The Barn Gallery. The latter is located on the Gibson House property.

According to the Yolo Arts website, the galleries are spaces dedicated to showcasing the diverse and inclusive representation of emerging and established artists. While the galleries are open to artists and exhibitions outside of Yolo County, they are spaces where local artists’ work can be exhibited and highlighted. 

Janice Purnell, the Yolo Arts creative director, said The Barn Gallery began gaining momentum and opened its space right before the COVID-19 pandemic in winter of 2020. 

According to Purnell, despite the unprecedented hardships, Yolo Arts adapted to the circumstances and continued to share art with the community. 

“We were able to pivot to a virtual model really right away [by] creating videos interviewing artists,” Purnell said. “Artists really stepped up, too, by creating their own videos that we were able to put up online. It was just a real kind of mutual effort to just keep the arts alive. Artists still were creating; they still wanted to show their work, and we just wanted to help facilitate that. Now that we’re back to more in-person, I feel like we’re generating the momentum again.” 

To further expand its reach within Yolo County, Yolo Arts has organized the Art & Ag Project, which aims to connect art and the county’s rich agricultural history.

The Art & Ag Project gives artists the opportunity to connect with local farmers and create art inspired by the agricultural land all around. According to Flory, the Arts & Ag Project has been one of Yolo Arts’ most successful partnerships. 

“[The Art & Ag Project] is a signature, creative placemaking project that has really put Yolo Arts on the map,” Flory said. “It’s a partnership with our agricultural community here in Yolo. We invite farmers to open their lands to artists so that artists can go out and visit and be inspired by those spaces and create artwork.” 

The project also serves as a way to promote awareness about preserving farmlands, according to the Yolo Arts website. 

“We’ve been to over 100 farms during the course of the program,” Flory said. “There are probably anywhere between 40 to 60 artists who visit a farm each month. That project culminates in our annual fundraiser, which is the [Art Farm Gala]. So you’re seeing artwork that has been created or inspired by Yolo County farmlands and the bounty of that over the course of the year.”

Flory said that in order to drive the organization’s message of art, community and diversity, the community’s feedback and experiences must be centered. 

“Unless you invite the community in and have that dialogue and conversation about your programming, you can’t create programming that resonates with your community,” Flory said. “And if those things don’t fit […] then it’s not having the impact that it should.” 

According to Purnell, Yolo Arts recognizes Yolo County as an arts hub and will continue to create spaces for art and community to flourish.  

“There’s always room for art,” Purnell said. “We’re in such a rich, rich community for the arts. I just want to keep showing it and keep getting people excited about what we’re doing here.”

Written by: Maria Martinez Castro — features@theaggie.org