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Illuminated Art Installations Brighten Winter Nights in Sonoma County

A modern artistic take on holiday light decorations, featuring light sculptures and video projections, is making Healdsburg prettier than ever.

Things are looking bright in downtown Healdsburg. Amidst the dark winter nights of the pandemic, longtime resident and artist Jessica Martin has found a brilliant way to bring cheer to residents, visitors and local businesses.

Since late October, Martin has been curating a series of temporary artworks — street art, murals, light installations, video and interactive art – in Healdsburg’s downtown shopping district. The outdoor art series, named Voices, features works by more than a dozen artists. It kicked off on Oct. 30 with street paintings of giant marigolds in honor of Dia de los Muertos, followed by the installation of nearly a dozen 20-foot murals. Now, with the launch of the third part of the Voices series — “Illuminations” — on Dec. 4, Martin’s curating efforts are truly starting to shine.

“The immediate goal is to use art to bring wonder and joy and meaningful connection to our town in this really difficult time and to support our local businesses by encouraging people to walk around town in all the different areas of the commercial districts,” Martin said.

“Illuminations“ is a modern, artistic take on holiday light installations, featuring light sculptures and video projections. Those interested in viewing the exhibit can download an app (designed by installation artist Hugh Livingston) that plays stories, interviews, music and sound clips chosen by the artists to accompany their installations along a walking tour. Go to artinhealdsburg.com/map to see the locations of the artworks.

Local artists, deep ties to Sonoma County

All artists involved in the Voices series either live in Sonoma County or have deep ties to the area. Alexander Valley resident Alice Warnecke Sutro will project her animated line drawings of local business owners and employees onto downtown Healdsburg walls at alternating sites. After hearing Martin’s vision for “Illuminations,” Warnecke Sutro said she knew she wanted to contribute to the project and be an advocate for shopping local.

“I hope onlookers take away that here in Healdsburg, there is a distinct group of contemporary artists who are invested in promoting their area and conserving the range of businesses that make a small town dynamic, where it is a pleasure to live, raise families and make art,” Warnecke Sutro said.

Along with Warnecke Sutro, “Illuminations” installation artists include Martin, Livingston, Sklo, Victoria Wagner, Moey Nelson, Philip Pasqualino, Heike Liss and Linus Lancaster.

In addition to the commissioned light installations, “Illuminations” features “light environments” such as light tunnels and projections in storefronts and along pathways and corridors. Starting in mid-December, Healdsburg Plaza also will be illuminated by a custom interactive art piece called “New Year’s Light.” As part of this installation, local businesses will hand out free LED votive candles and postcards for penning new year’s wishes and intentions, which visitors can then add to the display.

“I wanted to have something collaborative where the community can come together and create a light sculpture together,” Martin said.

A dream come true

Martin said she has been dreaming of organizing “Illuminations” and the other Voices projects for years. The pandemic provided an opportunity to turn ideas into reality.

A grant from Creative Sonoma this fall, along with funding from Sonoma County, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Healdsburg Tourism Improvement District and the Rotary Club of Healdsburg allowed the project to grow exponentially.

In the midst of planning and preparations came wildfire evacuations, and a contributing artist lost a home. But the community came together in support, paving the way for what Martin hopes will become an annual event filled with meaningful pieces that will add a little extra sparkle to the season.

“Now more than ever, we need light in our lives,” Martin said. “The light in each piece speaks to our tremendous resilience, creativity and interconnection.”

The light installations will be on display through January 2021; film projection pieces will be shown from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. All of the art projects are designed to allow viewers to see the works while social distancing.

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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