When you hear Napa Art, what image comes to mind? Maybe viewing a rare Picasso in a large chateau upvalley? While we’re sure that exists and is amazing, there is also another side of Napa. One that is 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 about a city than the public art around it….literally.
Napan That Encouraged the Arts
As much as Robert Mondavi revolutionized Napa Valley’s wine industry, Margrit Mondavi transformed 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.
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 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 art 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 you?
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? In 2020, Napa’s Mayor was presented with the Public Leadership in the Arts Award due to several public arts projects around town. Here are a few projects around the city that you will definitively want to put in your calendar.
RAD Napa, short for Rail Arts District, is an art movement transforming a semi-industrial stretch in the city. 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.
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.
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 over 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. As well as Napa Native ELLE.
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. Twelve 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. And you can view this street art on your own, or join us on a RAD Napa Walkabout. On this tour, you can get insider knowledge behind the works of art.
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 theme for the sixth Napa Artwalk exhibition is “Sense of Place”. This exhibit runs from 2019-2021 and features eight sculptures from artists from five western states. Each piece prompts the contemplation about the symbolic and physical relationship we have to the environment in which we live.
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. Or you can join a Downtown Napa Walkabout and experience both the artwork as well as indulge in small batch urban wineries as you go.
Napa Lighted Art Festival
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.
First, this 9-day festival features iconic architecture that becomes the backdrop of this unique lighted art walk. Original artwork created by local and international artists is installed around Downtown Napa, the Oxbow District and other places within the City of Napa.
In addition to the installations, everyone can participate in the Lantern Parade. It weaves through the various art installations in downtown Napa while walking to live drumbeat. All ages are encouraged to create a lantern and participate. 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 celebration? Napa Valley’s majestic hot air balloons are typically displayed as part of the Art After Dark experience. Several tethered hot air balloons light up the sky at the Oxbow Commons. 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 Resorts. Here you can experience exhibits that transform a space into something that sparkles with life. These stunning installations combined with the Village’s 9 tasting rooms is enhanced experience. Conveniently, there is a free shuttle service from downtown.
Napa Valley Arts 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.
Napa Paint & Sip Party
Not only can you enjoy viewing Napa art, but you can also participate in it. Local artist, Penelope Moore, has created a “Party in a Box” where you can sip, swirl, and paint. Her interactive paint and sip experiences allow you to become an artist for the day and paint your tasting notes onto canvas.
Her Art of Taste paint & sip party kits are artisanal, made to order and personally packed to bring a little extra creativity and spring into your life. You can choose a “Chardonnay Me Not” and “Rose Until Sunrise” kits that come in three options: Virtual, DIY, and a private party hosted by Penelope herself.
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?
What does all this art do for you?
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 has something for you to enjoy. The city is crawling with public art that can be appreciated by everyone, no matter how you interpret it.