.Best of Marin 2016: Arts & Culture

Tom Wesselmann once expressed that a thing he liked about collage was that he could use anything, which gave him variety in his work. “I’m interested in assembling a situation resembling painting, rather than painting,” he said.

We can think of a few situations that Wesselmann could assemble from Marin’s vibrant arts and culture scene, should he come back in another life: A woman contemplating a colorful painting at Seager Gray Gallery; a still life of a vintage camera, an apple and a bottle of Coke left behind by a young man at the Sausalito Art Festival; a couple embracing next to a bold bouquet of flowers at the Sweetwater, swaying the night away as the music plays.—Molly Oleson

By Charlie Swanson

We heart art

At the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, it’s all about community. The center’s commitment to connecting arts and artists to art lovers is unparalleled. More than 40 member artists call the working studios home, and the general public gets to see their works for free.

Located at the picturesque Novato Arts Center at Hamilton Field, MarinMOCA fosters emerging artists and features works by national artists several times a year in its popular, seasonal juried exhibitions. The Best Museum in Marin also offers classes and workshops on a weekly basis, from beginning painting groups to intensive mixed-media techniques.

Currently, the museum is featuring its annual “Altered Books & Book Arts” exhibit, where visitors can bid on works during the show’s closing party on June 4. All proceeds from the live auction event will help support MarinMOCA’s ongoing art shows and community programs.

500 Palm Drive, Novato; 415/506-0137.


Beginning as a grassroots organization half a century ago this year, the Marin Theatre Company (MTC) has grown into a leading provider of live productions, and it constantly premieres challenging and provocative new works by influential American playwrights.

This month, Marin’s Best Theater Company announced that its new resident playwright will be Lauren Gunderson, who will join the company for the next three years to produce and workshop four new plays alongside MTC artistic director Jasson Minadakis. Each of the new plays will target a different audience, from adults to very young children. The schedule will also include an adaptation of a well-known literary work, done in MTC’s signature risk-taking and inspiring fashion.

Gunderson is an award-winning playwright whose I and You had its world premiere at MTC in 2013. Later this year, her newest work, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, a continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice co-written with Margot Melcon, will also premiere at MTC.

397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415/388-5208.

Pretty picture

My all-time favorite film experience took place at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in 2006. The theater was screening experimental auteur David Lynch’s epic masterpiece, Inland Empire, and was welcoming Lynch himself to the event. By the time I found out that one of my favorite filmmakers was going to be showing his new film in my community, it was sold out. Yet the theater announced that a small number of rush tickets would be offered at the door on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Knowing what we had to do, my friend and I headed to Marin’s Best Movie Theater in downtown San Rafael at 11am, eight hours before the screening. For the whole day we sat on the sidewalk, sixth or seventh in line, eagerly waiting for the box office to open. That whole day, we talked Lynch with the other hopefuls and shared our theories on his challenging, avant-garde films and his seminal television show, Twin Peaks.

Thankfully, we got in. And we were not disappointed. Not only was Lynch there to introduce the film, he brought an old friend with him, singer-songwriter Chris Isaak, who appeared in the Twin Peaks prequel, Fire Walk with Me. Isaak played a couple of songs, joined by Lynch on maracas, and the director followed up the screening with a thoughtful, inspiring Q&A.

For me, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. For the Rafael Film Center, it was par for the course. The theater regularly welcomes special guests to present their works and hosts gala events with renowned Hollywood icons and respected independent filmmakers. It also presents special programs like “Science on Screen,” and gorgeous 35mm prints of classic favorites. That’s why they’ve long been one of the best cinema houses—not only in the Bay Area, but in the nation.

1118 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/454-1222.

Best fest

Taking place Oct. 6-16, the 39th annual Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) is nothing short of an institution in Marin. Bringing the best films to the North Bay—not only from around the country, but from around the world—this year’s festival already has ticket packages available, and you may want to consider getting them early, as the event always sells out.

Last year, the MVFF, Marin’s Best Film Festival, opened its event with the film that would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, the investigative drama Spotlight. Another Academy Award winner, Brie Larson, was on hand last year for the festival’s screening of the breakout hit Room, four months before she took home the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in that film. Other guests last year included Sir Ian McKellen and actress Carey Mulligan.

As if the festival’s reputation for presenting the top films of the year wasn’t enough of an incentive for attending, MVFF debuted a new music program last year that offered nine nights of concerts at the landmark Sweetwater Music Hall in downtown Mill Valley, exclusively curated for the film fest.


Rockin’ it

Guitarists and vocalists Mark McGee and Nicole Sutton love what they do. First meeting in 1999 at a studio session, San Francisco native McGee and Detroit native-turned-Northern-California-transplant Sutton felt an immediate connection in their crossed paths and formed the melodic, genre-blending pop group Luvplanet at the turn of the century.

Over the course of four albums and 17 years, Luvplanet—Marin’s Best Band—has become a staple of the North Bay and greater Bay Area, performing alongside heavyweight headliners like Gregg Allman, the Mother Hips and Todd Rundgren, while also making time to perform at small, intimate venues, both as a full band and an acoustic duo.

It’s been more than five years since Luvplanet’s last album, but 2016 is an exciting time for the band, as McGee and Sutton, along with bassist Tommy Sisco and drummer Michael Amos, have finished recording their fifth full-length record, Rivertown, set for release on May 20 and available now for pre-order on the band’s website.


Good times

Family, community, sustainability and fun—no other town in Marin exemplifies all of these core values better than Fairfax, and no other event exemplifies Fairfax better than the Fairfax Festival. Combining all of Marin’s loves into one weekend of live music, arts and crafts, organic goods and more, Marin’s Best Music Festival returns to Contratti Park’s baseball field June 11-12 for its 39th year.

The weekend will commence with a family film night on Friday, June 10, before a downtown parade on Saturday morning kicks off the weekend’s festivities. In addition to three stages of entertainment, wholesome food and creative vendors, the festival includes an Ecofest with a pavilion full of interactive and educational activities that reflect Fairfax’s commitment to open space, GMO-free produce and other environmentally minded movements.


The full list of Best of Marin 2016 Arts & Culture winners:

Best Art Gallery

Seager Gray Gallery

108 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley.


Best Museum

Marin Museum of Contemporary Art

500 Palm Drive, Novato.


Best Movie Theater

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center

1118 Fourth St., San Rafael.


Best Film Festival

Mill Valley Film Festival

1001 Lootens Place, Suite 220, San Rafael.


Best Art Festival

Sausalito Art Festival

2400 Bridgeway, #220, Sausalito.


Best Charity Event

Marin Alfresco

Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael.


Best Theater Company

Marin Theatre Company

397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415.388.5208.

Best Performing Arts Center

Marin Center

10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael.


Best Dance Studio/Performing Dance Company

Roco Dance

56 Bolinas Road, Fairfax.


237 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley.


Best Media Personality/TV, Radio, Print

Rick Clark, KWMR


Best Band



Best Music Venue

Sweetwater Music Hall

19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley.


Best Music Festival

Fairfax Festival


Best Place to Dance

Sweetwater Music Hall

19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley.


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