Arts Benicia’s 35 by 35

Arts Benicia is celebrating its 35th year of supporting the visual arts in Benicia and the greater region with an exhibition called 35 by 35. The exhibition highlights the theme of artists supporting artists, central to Arts Benicia’s long history. Arts Benicia’s exhibition committee, comprised of community artist-volunteers, staff, and board members, selected 35 established regional artists whose work shows mastery of their particular genre to contribute a work to the exhibition. These artists were also asked to nominate an emerging artist, or an artist yet to be fully recognized, for inclusion in the exhibition. The result is an exciting, artistically and ethnically diverse display of artwork that demonstrates the theme of generational mentoring. The exhibition will open on September 24 with a public reception from 4 to 6 pm, and run through October 30.

Formed by volunteers as a non-profit in 1987, Arts Benicia originally supported a broad range of arts, including visual arts, theatre, poetry, and music.


Al Farrow work Blue Helmet

Al Farrow “Blue Helmet”

Peter Stucky and Dana Rottler (BayBlownGlass) A Sunflower For You

Peter Stucky and Dana Rottler (BayBlownGlass) “A Sunflower For You”

A community of artists had been migrating to Benicia since the 1960s when the US Army vacated the Benicia Arsenal. The empty military and industrial warehouses on the Carquinez Strait were ideal and inexpensive spaces for artists to work. As more artists came in, the group became pro-active in support of artists, arranging exhibitions at City Hall and other local venues.

A community effort to raise funds in the early 1990s led to the leasing of a large warehouse space on Tyler Street.

Volunteers worked to renovate the space and create a permanent gallery and classroom which was completed in 1993. The first exhibition in the gallery featured the works of Mike Kendall and Larry Morace and was curated by Kathryn Weller Renfrow (then Kathryn Gunther), who served on the nonprofit’s board and later became its longtime director. The new spaces provided Arts Benicia a home in which to host a remarkable number of exhibitions, classes, and programs serving the community since that time. Programs such as Open Studios helped connect the working life of artists to locals and visitors, while educational programs for youth ensured the development of the next generation of artists.

While some of the organization’s earliest volunteers and members are participating in the exhibition, including Morace, Carol Dalton, Mark Eanes, and Pam Dixon, the exhibition will feature many new faces, demonstrating the significant reach and reputation of Arts Benicia’s regular calls for artists, and the strength of regional talent, such as Juana Alicia Araiza, Chester Arnold, Seiko Tachibana, Michael Shemchuk, Al Farrow, and Lisa Kokin. The nonprofit’s recent move to the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, across from the Clocktower in the Benicia Arsenal, has also contributed to an influx of visitors from the community and the elegant environment for exhibitions in the historic mansion has enhanced its standing with artists. “Arts Benicia plays such a significant role in the communication cycle that helps artists thrive,” said Dalton. “It is so important for artists to show their work and to feel the connection with other artists and the public. Arts Benicia has been key to my development and validation as an artist. I wish all artists could have the support of an organization like Arts Benicia.”

Among the 70 artists featured in the 35 by 35 exhibition will be Derek Weisberg, who was nominated by Eanes.

Raised in Benicia, Derek’s early love for ceramic sculpture was nurtured by Eanes and other local artists. After graduating with honors from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland (now CCA) in 2005, his studies with notable artists included Stephen De Staebler, Ursula von Rydingsvard, and Manuel Neri. Now living in NYC, Weisberg has become a prolific creator of mixed media and ceramics and has shown his work internationally.

Celeste Smeland, Arts Benicia’s Executive Director, has led the organization since 2015, and follows a short list of directors including Wenfrow and Larnie Fox.


Derek Weisberg work Fake Flowers VIII

Derek Weisberg “Fake Flowers VIII”

Seiko Tachibana work Connection-blossom e7-8

Seiko Tachibana “Connection blossom e7-8”

“It’s exciting to see an artist like Derek, who began his artistic career in Benicia, become highly successful, and to have the opportunity to show his work here,” said Smeland. “It shows our commitment to supporting the next generation of artists, as well as the quality of our exhibition program. The community can proudly look forward to what the next 35 years will bring for Arts Benicia.” For more information, please visit