OPaf (Other Places art fair) comes to Sonoma County

Illustrations folded into paper airplanes will soar through the air. Participants will attend impromptu woodwind performances. Some will take wheelbarrow rides in the park. Others will listen to amplified soundscapes.

Here’s the bottom line: all of your human senses will be activated. Be ready.

The five-year contemporary art fair, OPaf (Other Places art fair), which allows art projects and unconventional spaces to exist without borders, makes its grand debut on May 14 at Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa.

Twenty interactive and immersive art projects by artists from Sonoma County, San Francisco and Los Angeles that span sculptures, artwork, published materials, artist-designed flags and sound installations will be presented at the outside for participants to explore.

“In this space, artwork does what it’s supposed to do: present an idea, start a conversation, move people, art can just be…art. It reminds us why we create art in the first place,” said K Knittel, founder of OPaf. “It’s magic when you can just experience art without seeing it as a commodity.”

Unlike traditional art fairs that thrive on sales of artists’ work, attendees can showcase their art projects without the pressure of selling their work to attendees.

“OPaf eliminates the factors that come into play at traditional art fairs,” Knittel said. “What happens when artists don’t care to sell their art and nobody tries to sell you something? People can experience art in as pure a sense as possible.

The “art shacks” also have no boundaries as visitors passing through the park will continually stumble upon projects.

Some highlights of the fair are the materials printed by Sevastopol book collector Ben Kinmont’s publishing project, “Antinomian Press”; sound artist Jen Boyd will present an amplified tree soundscape, “Peptoc”; a hotline offering words of encouragement and wisdom by West Side Elementary students in Healdsburg will feature a cheering booth; and Miracle Plum will pour organic and bio-diverse wine.

“All of these projects are about sharing with the public. We try to create work that is inviting and generous in nature,” Knittel said. “Come and leave with a free drawing or leave with new ideas.”

Local artists help make OPaf a reality

In 2021, Knittel explored the idea with local artists Jeremy Ehling and Nathan Azhderian, who each operate an art space in Sonoma County and have presented at past OPaf events to bring the fair to North Bay. It was then clear that we had to update.

“There are a lot of young people in Sonoma County who are interested in contemporary art and want more events like this to happen,” said Ehling, founder of STABLE, an exhibition space from Sevastopol. “It also attracts a lot of different generations of artists.”

Many ideas, like those from Knittel that defy societal norms, start with a spark of inspiration.

Knittel, a California Institute of the Arts graduate who has often created alternative art spaces, started a blog titled “Other Places” in 2016 with the goal of finding people in San Pedro creating alternative art spaces. alternatives.

“I have often thought about the meaning of presenting works of art outside of traditional systems like art galleries and art fairs. I often thought about it,” Knittel explained.

A few months later, Knittel planned to promote the blog at a “Human Resources” event in Los Angeles, an event for independent contemporary art groups to mingle and share ideas.

It was after this event that the idea for Knittel to create an event for people to come together and discover art and share ideas with each other was born.

In 2018, the first OPaf show was held at a former US Army base at the Angels Gate Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Knittel plans to make OPaf North, funded by attendee fees and donations from attendees and supporters, an annual spring weekend event to be held in North Bay.

“To see where the exchanges between all of these organizations will lead is exciting,” said Azhderian, founder of project space Santa Rosa Escolar. “I’m excited to see how it all develops.”

You can reach editor Mya Constantino at [email protected] @searchingformya on Twitter.

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