Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time for the Arts

The wedding and our subsequent move into the home with Bob and his children took every bit of my energy last month. I saw several "good works" stories to write about, but could not seem to concentrate in these new surroundings. Ninety percent of our belongings are still in boxes in the garage, as we moved into a house that was already bursting at the seams with fifty years of family memories and love. As I try to sift through closets and drawers to make room, I realize how fast our lives go by and my priorities continue to shift. Though my first instinct normally would be to redecorate and nest, this time I want to gain understanding about Bob's parents who lived here all these years. Of course, I do need lots of breaks between unpacking and taking care of the family who has adopted me as their step-mom. If I didn't have a passion for fitness, I suppose it would be really tough to find myself again.

In a quest to find biking and running trails in this new community, I headed for the hills. Luckily the move brought me closer to my mother’s home, and to the heart of a beautiful lush neighborhood in the Saratoga foothills. Summertime is a little cooler at higher ground so I’ve made a habit of circling the tree-lined loop at Montalvo Arts Center at least once a week on my bike or when I’m doing a long run. I always thought of Montalvo as a jazz concert venue for artist's like Diana Krall, or a wedding venue for the wealthy. I've been there many times to enjoy the stunning Italian marble architecture, even to listen to a concert or two. The only reason for my visits this summer is to get back in shape! Montalvo Road is a steep grade to increase anyone's heart rate, and there is a little path next to the road so I can really push it with hill repeats--the most I've ever done is three in a row, enough to hopefully trim a pound. What I like about Montalvo's new image is the friendly "welcome" sign and air of accessibility. There are cars pulling in with families, coming up for a hike on the trails or checking kids into summer camps. The activities offered are affordable and high quality, the most appealing fare to me this summer is the "Starry, Starry Night" family stargazing slumber party on August 13--maybe we'll sign up for that.

Every ride or run up Montalvo Road I see artists working around the Don and Sally Lucas Artists Resident facility, so the other day I spoke to a gal in her mid-twenties as she climbed down from a tree. I could not imagine why an artist was climbing a ladder leaned against a giant Redwood, so I asked if she was a volunteer? "I'm a former artist fellow of the Lucas program, just installing the project proposal from my work here." She was embedding 1-inch round mirror tiles into the regularly-spaced knots on a very old tree, the light catching to create a sense of shimmer. She invited me to the Montalvo gala event next weekend, a free-to-the-public lawn party on July 23rd. Her work, and that of other Montalvo artists, will be on display outdoors in front of the center and indoors at the Carriage House. I asked the artist to send me some photos and video of her work to share, so stay tuned. Now she's moving on to find the next project--the artists continual search for stability. (After recently completing the book, "Girl in Hyacinth Blue," surmising Vermeer's struggle to provide for a family of thirteen, my passion for the Arts is renewed.)

Montalvo has become a nonprofit art mecca of the South Bay thanks to the generosity of Don and Sally Lucas, longtime Saratoga residents, philanthropists, and patrons of the arts, and others who have donated their time and money to keep this art center thriving. When James D. Phelan, San Francisco mayor and U.S. Senator, died in 1912 he generously gave 137 acres at Montalvo to Santa Clara County to be maintained as a public park. Regardless of the recent funding crises throughout towns, cities, and counties in this state, Montalvo continues to grow due to the well-managed and dedicated nonprofit staff and a steady volunteer workforce. What a gift Mr. Phelan gave to this community; the new Executive Director, Angela McConnell is determined to share it. She has a vision for Montalvo to make the Arts more accessible to all, and with her past success in fundraising and nonprofit management, my new favorite running and riding spot is bound to provide hours of workouts to escape among the Arts.

Do you have a passion for the Arts?

Try these cool good works ideas:

  • Offer to become a docent at a local art center or museum. This requires training and commitment, but perks usually include new friendships with like-minded people and possibly tickets to events.
  • Become an entry-level donor! You don't have to be a gazillionaire to be a philanthropist. Arts organizations are in dire need of our support in this economy, as overall donations have dropped. Small amounts by many donors work. My mom gives at basic levels to her favorite 5 or 6 institutions, and her entire family benefits. For instance, Bob and I attended a free outdoor jazz concert last night with yummy appetizers, thanks to Mom's gift to Los Gatos Arts and Music organization.
  • Become a dedicated patron, promote the Arts to your friends, skip the movies and attend a concert instead! For the same price of a substandard flick, you can see a chamber concert at Montalvo's Carriage House, or at Stanford Lively Arts venues. Remember Vermeer, Van Gogh, and other starving artists from history: It is the patrons who keep the artists in business.

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