As Wildfires Ravage Northern California, Local Art Institutions Shutter and Wait

As the fires continue to burn, the region's museums aren't taking any chances.

Smoke from the Northern California wildfires on the grounds of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa. Courtesy of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.
Smoke from the Northern California wildfires on the grounds of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa. Courtesy of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.

As wildfire tears through Northern California, leveling homes and businesses and killing at least 17 people, art museums and organizations are among those scrambling to deal with the deadly blaze. The fires, which have scorched over 100,000 acres, are only the latest to strike the state, which has seen eight million acres burn due to an astounding 7,500 conflagrations this year.

The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, a nonprofit that holds performances and offers arts education opportunities, announced Monday that its main facility had “minimal damage, but that classrooms and the center’s east end are destroyed,” according to the New York Times. The staff is safe despite the incident, and the center will remain closed while they access the damage.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by this devastating fire, especially those who have lost loved ones,” wrote the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art on Facebook. The museum has postponed this weekend’s planned openings for “Forge and Stone: Contemporary California Women Sculptors” and “David Ligare: Magna Fide (The Great Belief).”

The Arts Guild of Sonoma posted a list of resources for those affected by the fire on Facebook, and the Museums of Sonoma County, while closed as precaution yesterday, wrote on Twitter that it would waive admission when it reopened, providing free Wi-Fi and a place to charge cell phones during the recovery.

As the flames encroached on the grounds of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, the museum closed its doors, tweeting “the #napafire touched the property but staff+galleries are safe” and posting pictures of the smoke-filled property.

Napa’s Hess Collection is also closed due to safety concerns until further notice, the museum, home to the collection of Donald Hess, wrote on Twitter yesterday. The city is also home to the biannual Napa Art Walk.

Smoke from the Northern California wildfires on the grounds of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa. Courtesy of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.

Smoke from the Northern California wildfires on the grounds of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa. Courtesy of the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.

According to ARTnews, Stonescape, home to the art collection of Norman and Norah Stone, housed in the 5,750-square-foot Art Cave, has not been affected by the fires.

Although the fires rage in Mendocino County, the Mendocino Art Center would appear to have come through unscathed. On Tuesday, the museum posted a note on its Facebook page announcing a reception to celebrate three new fall exhibitions slated to take place this coming Saturday. “Meet and mingle with the featured gallery artists, and enjoy snacks and wine,” reads the message.

Meanwhile, a timely project from artist Jeff Frost, California on Fire, is set to be completed next year. The time-lapse documentary film shows fires destroying Northern California, and the scorched earth in the aftermath, reports TIME.

Frost’s ongoing work stands as a reminder that the threat of fire never really goes away in California. This reality was reflected in a Facebook message from the Arts Guild of Sonoma. “Currently the town of Sonoma is safe,” they told artnet News. “Fires are active in other areas so it will be days before we know it’s over.”


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