June marks the start of Benicia’s annual series of Art Walks, when downtown galleries pair their current exhibits with a variety of special demonstrations, fun activities, live entertainment and small sips.


Now in its eighth year, Benicia Art Walk takes place on the second Saturday in June, July, September, and October. The first one of the year is June 8, 2-7pm. This year the event features a unique new incentive for gallery visitors.


Through a consortium called Galleries of First Street, the 11 art spaces lining Benicia’s main street will give their guests the Benicia Art Passport, which they can have stamped at each location they visit. Passports with all 11 gallery stamps are entered in a drawing, and one lucky art connoisseur will win a gift certificate for $200 that can be spent at one of the galleries. Benicia Art Passport drawings will be held on the Monday after each Art Walk, and for the inaugural June 8 event, Mayor Elizabeth Patterson will draw the winning Passport on June 10 at HQ Gallery.


The Galleries of First Street group comprises Arata Fine Art Gallery; Benicia Plein Air Gallery; Cavallo: A Milinda Perry Gallery; Estey Gallery 216; Gallerie Renee Marie; Gallery 621; Happy Life Pottery and Gallery; HQ Gallery; Lindsay Art Glass; The Little Art Shop; and Once Upon a Canvas.


Susan Johnson and Bob Nelson at the Benicia Plein Air Gallery


“It’s a great way for visitors and art lovers to get to know all the art that Benicia offers,” said Vicki Dennis, a local artist and chairperson for the group. “The galleries are very excited. There is a special energy about the first Art Walk.” With the Benicia Art Passport initiative, “our hope is that visitors spend some time with each gallery and get to know the artists.”


Benicia Art Walk is sponsored by the City of Benicia through its Visit Benicia program, which provides maps and banners and coordinates the licensing so galleries can serve small sips. The event is co-sponsored by Downtown Benicia Alliance. “Art has really found a home on First Street,” said Teri Davena, Economic Development Specialist with the City of Benicia.


“When Benicia Plein Air Gallery artist Pat Ryll approached the City with the idea for an Art Walk eight years ago,” Davena said, “it was because the City of Benicia promotes Visit Benicia tourism through the City's Office of Economic Development. It was a perfect match for our tourism efforts.” She noted that the number of downtown galleries has almost doubled in just three years. “It has become something that other galleries want to be a part of.”


More info on Benicia Art Walk is available on the web at visitbenicia.org/events and on Facebook at facebook.com/BeniciaArtWalk.