Continuing our How We Work Now series of conversations with local businesses and organizations enduring the continuing Covid crisis, our latest chat is with Antonia Adezio, executive director of Marin Art and Garden Center.
Bohemian: I’m thinking of Ray Oldenburg’s notion of a “third place” that’s not the home or the workplace, but a space where people can participate in a sense of community—which have been harder to come by the past 18 months. How is Marin Art and Garden Center one of these places, and how do you guys support this valuable contribution during Covid?
Antonia Adezio: Marin Art and Garden Center really fits that definition, as a place to be away from ordinary activities—home and office—and to be open to other experiences. For 75 years, it has been a gathering place for communities of like interests, from artists and actors to young families and active gardeners. All these groups continue to be the life blood of the Center!
The community dimension of that became so clear during the first months of the pandemic, when we felt fortunate to be able to remain open and welcome people as a respite from their own four walls. People gathered with their kids, met with friends for lunch on a bench and clearly reveled in being in a safe and beautiful place with other people.
As things have progressed, and we have been able to open the doors of our gallery and shop and now our event spaces—and soon our preschool, the Garden School—these communities are regrouping around shared interests and excuses to meet up—whether for a design seminar, an art exhibition or an outdoor concert—and there is definitely joy in the air. We support this ideal of community by keeping our 11 acres and historic buildings open to the public 7 days a week, free of charge.
B: I love the phrase on your website that promotes the center as a place to be “inspired, educated and entertained—or to just be.” That’s all I ever want! Are people responding to this message, and how does it reflect the ethos of the center?
AA: I’m so glad this strikes a chord—it was a phrase proposed by a brilliant marketer, and it resonated immediately with all of us working at the Center. On any given day, there are options to engage actively with information and ideas; to relax and enjoy food and music in good company; and to simply bathe in the beauty of the big trees. There are lots of private nooks [in which] to read a book and listen to the birds, and to tailor a very personal experience. Whether you have an hour or an afternoon, it is an accessible place to disengage from the day-to-day.
B: Eleven acres in the heart of woodsy Marin County is a real estate coup, and the fact that it’s open to everyone is amazing. How have people been using the grounds during the pandemic? Any recommendations?
AA: Most of our daily visitors are local, and it is a place for a morning walk (often with a leashed and well-behaved dog!), an outdoor adventure with children or grandchildren, a place to take photographs of plants and wildlife, or to enjoy a picnic lunch. It has also become a destination for serious gardeners to see what’s planted in the gardens and get ideas for their home gardens from our professional staff. Weddings at the Center are a special part of what we offer, with a memorable and photo-worthy backdrop for these important moments.
B: Nature and art strike me as the perfect antidote to much of what ails us. Have you found that people are experiencing a “therapeutic” effect at the center?
AA: I see a lot of calm and happy faces as I walk the grounds, and people actually thank us for being there—so I think, yes, it is having that effect. We are eager to build the nexus of art and nature in a compelling way to give people insights into the way the natural world works and how artists interpret it. Our gallery shows are the starting point, and we love to present artists talking about their work—which gives so much insight into their motivation and inspiration. Our gallery space, called “The Studio,” is a real temple to visual art, and also a welcoming gathering place. We are all currently masked indoors, but there are gardens on either side of the building where we host receptions and art demonstrations outdoors.
B: In terms of “hidden gem” status, the center might take the title in Marin. There’s a bit of a “hiding in plain sight” vibe. How will you preserve the sanctuary aspect of the experience as awareness grows? Or am I just being paranoid?
AA: I wish I had a proverbial nickel for every person who has said to me: “Oh, I drive by that place all the time, but have never gone in!” I encourage them to take the time and take a chance—and first-time visitors are typically amazed that they a) didn’t know it existed, or b) didn’t take the time to visit! We are ambitious in our goals to welcome more people from throughout the region to enjoy this beautiful place, and I think there is plenty of room for that audience to grow without threatening the peace and quiet. The word “sanctuary” is perfect—may we use that in our materials?
B: Yes! Are there any specific programs or events you would like to highlight?
AA: In September, we are excited to offer our first concerts in our recently-renovated Redwood Amphitheater. On Sept. 2, we are presenting the Eos Ensemble in a program of string quartets by Ravel and Dvorak. This is nearly sold out. On Sept. 22, it will be Brazilian jazz from Catia Machado and BEBE, the Brazil/East Bay Ensemble. www.brazileastbayensemble.com. Tickets at www.maringarden.org.
There are two exhibitions scheduled in The Studio in September: the first is a one-weekend-only show and sale by 12 plein-air painters called the BayWood Artists (Sept. 10-12). Marin Art and Garden Center will receive 50% of the proceeds of sales.
On Sept. 19, we will open the 24th International Exhibition of the American Society of Botanical Artists—truly the pinnacle of the artist’s interpretation of the natural world. This show will be on view through Nov. 28.
These shows are both open to the public, free of charge, Thursday/Friday/Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 12-4. Masks required. More info at www.maringarden.org.
Our annual fundraiser, the Harvest Dinner, will take place on Sept. 17 outdoors under the oaks in the Stratford Garden.
Dinner by Sage Catering, with a festive silent auction followed by a short fund-a-need in support of the Center’s programs. Tickets available at https://maringarden.org/harvestdinner2021/.