Arts Benicia is one of the most exciting art centers in the San Francisco Bay area. It provides an exhibition home for more than 100 artists, whose studios are primarily located in the historic Benicia Arsenal. The Art Center and Gallery features a diverse schedule of events: A non-juried member’s exhibition, invitational and juried exhibitions, Open Studios and the Annual Art Auction. Arts Benicia established a gallery and exhibition program in the Benicia Public Library, has been instrumental in the selection and installation of Benicia’s public art works, sponsors exhibitions in downtown Benicia, and has a classroom adjacent to the gallery where a variety of art classes are taught by established artists.

Arts Benicia acquired 2400 square feet of space and was born in 1993. A relatively young organization, it has attained grownup status. One of the most well attended events is the annual Open Studios, held during the first weekend in May. It is a visual feast for all art lovers and a chance to share time with the artists. Benicia has three well-known glass artists, and a visit to their foundries provides an opportunity to watch glass blowing demonstrationsg. Studios are open and some of the living quarters of painters, textile artists, ceramicists, jewelry designers, photographers, and sculptors. The Arts Benicia Gallery exhibits the work of each participating artist, and a map that guides the visitor to visitation sites. Because of their proximity, viewers can walk to most of the locations.

The upcoming Annual Art Auction is the most essential and exciting fundraising event of the year, one that is eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors. The evening begins at a leisurely pace with food, wine and socializing, while guests place their bids on the many silent auction pieces on display in the Gallery. The mood shifts and things get serious once the live auction gets underway. Seasoned art buyers bid against hopeful newcomers for the possibility of winning an original work from a local artist.

Two people who are responsible for the cultural contributions and outreach for the gala event are Larnie Fox, Executive Director, and Laura Buchan, Program Coordinator. Larnie has been with the organization for over a year and handles the extensive qualifications and responsibilities in his job description with success and confidence, as well as a great deal of creativity. He majored in Painting and Drawing at the University of Utah, and later worked in kinetic sculpture, performance and sound sculpture.

Laura Buchan, Program Coordinator, handles the challenges of her position with capable enthusiasm. She attended Mills College and the University of Edinburg, and received a degree in art History. Laura grew up in Benicia and is now studying at John F. Kennedy University, working toward an MA/MBA in Museum Studies and Business Administration.

One fifth of Arts Benicia’s funding comes from the City of Benicia. Like most non-profit organizations, funding has been drastically cut, so the Art Auction is an important funding component. Other funding sources include business and personal donations, sponsorships, tuition and art sales.

The Annual Art Auction as described by Larnie is the “best party of the year in town. You don’t want to miss it. Be prepared to bid and know that you are getting to view and buy the best art.” To the question, “What is it like to be part of the planning and execution of a project this size?” Larnie responds, “It starts like a snowball and becomes an avalanche.” He describes his role as “master trouble shooter.”

“There are a myriad of issues, the largest of which is data management. We have to manage the information related to all of the donated objects for sale, as well as all of the data for the bidders and buyers,” says Laura. In the frenzy of the Auction’s planning and execution, she anticipates vacations she will take after the big event. For Larnie it is meditation, exercise, wine with dinner and “carving out studio time.”

Laura describes the Annual Art Auction as “…a celebration for the whole community. It’s a unique opportunity for artists, collectors, businesses, and residents to come together to support the arts in Benicia.” So mark your calendars, the date is September 24 with a ticket price of $35. For further information visit Arts Benicia at 991 Tyler Street, Suite #114, or call 707.747.0131.