When you hear Napa Art, what image comes to mind? Maybe you are looking at a rare Picasso in a large chateau high above the valley? While that does exist and is amazing (we hear), there is also another side of Napa. One that is perhaps a little more accessible and relatable to the rest of us.
Napa’s diversity is one of the of the great things about the city. Sitting at the base of the valley, Napa draws a community ranging in backgrounds and interests. And the dedication to public art is one of the things that ties the community together.
Napa has a long history of citizens and community leaders coming together to support the arts. And this continues today with a large public arts program led by Arts Council Napa Valley. The projects they have created tell a great story about the community and what it’s about.
Nothing paints a better picture of what a city is like than the public art around it….literally.
Who started all this
As much as Robert Mondavi deserves credit for revolutionizing Napa’s wine industry, Margrit Mondavi deserves credit for transforming the valley into a cultural destination. As the Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery, she created an artistic hub in the valley. Considered Napa Valley’s Grande Dame, her support for the arts lives on.
Renowned for amazing wine, Robert Mondavi Winery is also famous for it’s robust art collection and their “Artist in Residences” exhibit. In addition to the artwork, it also has a Summer Music Festival that has included artist like Ben Harper and Brandi Carlile. As a fan of the culinary arts, Margrit also opened the Great Chefs Cooking School that hosted Alice Waters, Daniel Boulud and — most notably — Julia Child….a Mondavi lifelong friend.
In addition to the winery, she also had a strong commitment to the community. As a lifelong philanthropist, she was a strong supporter of arts in the schools. And one of her legacies is the Oxbow School in Napa. This art institute is a single semester arts school for high school juniors and seniors. The school trains students in painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and digital media while also satisfying high school graduation requirements.
As you can imagine, this level of support for art in the schools has a large effect on the community as a whole. From simple appreciation, to transforming students into professional artist, the support Margrit Mondavi gave to students had a lasting impact on the city.
What Can Napa Show Me Now
The answer is lots! As community leaders, citizens, and businesses continue to support the arts, there will continue to be plenty to see around the city. From permanent exhibits to annual events, Napa continuously has interesting things to see and experience.
How robust is the Napa public art scene? Here are a few projects around the city that you will definitively want to put in your 2019 calendar.
RAD Napa, short for Rail Arts District, is an art movement transforming a semi-industrial stretch in the city. The city was inspired to create a world renowned cultural corridor after seeing the power of public art in places like the Wynwood Walls in Miami or the SODO Track in Seattle.
This project started when the members of the Napa Vine Trail Arts, Culture and Education committee wanted to improve the Vine Trail’s user experience. After partnering with the Napa Valley Wine Train, the Rail Arts District was formally launched in January 2017.
The vision for RAD Napa is to bring to life a far from scenic area by creating a dedicated art district. This art district will be a 2-mile outdoor gallery with over 130 art installations.
From murals to sculptures and more, RAD Napa’s installations are part of a growing group of local and internationally recognized artists. With the first installation created in 2017, there are already 10 murals and 12 railroad utility box wraps in this emerging district.
The murals are converting cinder block buildings into works of art. Working with ThinkSpace, RAD Napa has already curated world renowned street artists like Fintan McGee and Felipe Panton. The district now has 10 murals with 4 more planned for April 2019.
In addition to the murals, RAD also has a Utility Box Project. Local and regional artists submitted their ideas for art “wraps” for the railroad signal boxes. 12 artists were selected, and their work is currently displayed on boxes along the Vine Trail between California Blvd. and the Wine Train Depot.
As RAD Napa continues to grow, it will continue to bring in top talent to create a world-renowned cultural corridor.
In addition to the amazing street art of RAD Napa, there is also Napa’s Artwalk. This project launched in 2010 and is still going strong today. The Artwalk is a rotating, temporary, outdoor sculpture exhibition throughout downtown Napa.
The Napa Artwalk is designed to enhance the public environment and promote the enjoyment of public art. This project is a collaborative effort by the city of Napa and the Arts Council Napa Valley. Together, they select regional artists to exhibit their art in downtown Napa on a temporary basis.
The current theme for the fifth Napa Artwalk exhibition is “Shifting Perspective”. This exhibit runs from 2017-2019 and features ten sculptures from artists from 4 western states. Each piece demonstrates the power of perspective and how art can change depending upon how, when, and where it is viewed.
You can stroll around downtown to check out the exhibits and also listen to the Napa Artwalk audio tour. This audio can be found on the free smartphone app, Otocast. Using your smartphone, download Otocast through the Apple Store or Google Play and look up “Napa Artwalk “. Once downloaded, you can select which sculpture you’d like to hear about…most were recorded by the artists themselves.
Napa Lighted Art Festival: Art After Dark
The Napa Lighted Art Festival is a celebration of creative arts and technology where light becomes art. The festival supports innovative techniques using light and light technologies as a growing art medium. The 2019 festival will run from January 12th-20th and will include several events.
First, ten to fifteen original art works will be installed throughout downtown Napa and the Oxbow District. Artwork will include Light art, Video art, 3D video mapping projections and projects that use technology or interactivity. The artwork is created around the core concepts of: Innovative, Contemporary, Uplifting, Inspiring and Imaginative.
In addition, everyone can participate in the Lantern Parade. On January 18th, the parade will start (6:30PM) and finish at Veteran’s Park. It will weave through the various art installations in downtown Napa while walking to live drumbeat by the amazing Cosmos Percussion Ensemble. All ages are encouraged to participated and create a lantern. This is a perfect event be a part of this community’s art celebration.
Not able to walk in the parade, but still want to be apart of the art celebration? Napa Valley’s majestic hot air balloons will be uniquely displayed as part of the Art After Dark experience. Several tethered hot air balloons will light up the sky at the Oxbow Commons on both weekends of the festival. You won’t want to miss this stunning and uniquely Napan light show!
Finally, you can also head down to The Villages at Vista Collina Resort. Here you can checkout Christopher Schardt’s Constellation Light sculpture. This exhibit transforms a space beyond something ordinary into something that sparkles with life. This stunning installation is enhanced by wine and beer tastings at the Village’s 9 tasting rooms. Conveniently, there is a free shuttle service from downtown.
Art in April
Can’t make it in January, but really want to be a part of a Napa Art event? Don’t worry, Napa has you covered right when the weather turns truly amazing.
Each year Arts Council Napa Valley has a month-long campaign to promote local talent. The goal is to bring the community together through live music, art fairs and exhibitions, storytelling, theatre performance, culinary arts, and hands on activities. From Napa to Calistoga, each city celebrates with different events throughout the month of April.
In 2019, downtown Napa will celebrate on April 21st from 2-5PM. First Street Napa, will host eight large-scale mural and art installations from artists across the Bay Area. The goal is to create a European Street Fair-feel with live performances throughout the day.
First, these artist are truly amazing and unique. And second, you never know when they may throw down. Chalk R!ot creates custom pavement art and chalkboard murals. What started out as a hobby between two friends has grown into a global public arts company.
The best part is that they have a studio in Napa. As they say, chalk pairs well with cabernet and what is better than California sun and colorful public chalk art?
This public arts company is awesome because you never know when you may see their work pop up around town. The medium of chalk is unique, the images are jaw dropping, and the timing always spot on. You will certainly be amazed when you stubble across one of their works whiles casually walking through town.
What does all this mean for me
So, if you’re not an artist but you can appreciate looking at great art. Or you’re an art enthusiast and want to see pieces from world renowned artist. Napa’s got you covered. The city is crawling with public art that can be appreciated by everyone, no matter how you interpret it.