For over 60 years, Marin art lovers have welcomed autumn with the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, recently named “Best Festival” by readers of the Pacific Sun, and returning to the redwood groves of Old Mill Park Sept. 14–15, with over 100 artists on hand and entertainment for all ages.
“It’s unprecedented to have an art festival in a redwood grove,” says Erma Murphy, artist liaison for the festival. “It has a magical feel to it.”
In addition to time-honored art and community engagement, this year’s festival centers around a special presentation, “Green Change: Artists Consider Our Climate Crisis,” which features works from contemporary artists in collaboration with Green Change, a grassroots environmental network founded by Marin-based artist and innovator Fabrice Florin.
“Up until three years ago, we didn’t have a special presentation—it was something we wanted to do, to highlight different people in the community we’d like to expose to a large audience,” says Murphy, who approached Florin and Green Change about this year’s special show. Florin opted to collaborate with other environmentally astute artists for an interactive display of work.
“Seeing as it’s a very timely subject, and we are on the cusp of needing to make a change, it was good timing,” Murphy says. Florin tapped fellow Marin artist Al Grumet to curate the presentation, and in addition to eye-opening exhibits such as Tess Felix’s portraits assembled from plastic debris and Ann Dodge’s sculpted figures made from post-consumer waste, Green Change activities include making seed balls with wildflower seeds and soil, making origami houses with LED light fixtures and other interactive games and art projects.
“We want to teach, through art, what people can do to help the environment,” Murphy says.
In conjunction with focusing on climate art, the festival is decreasing its own carbon footprint, offering discount ticket prices for attendees who ride their bikes to Old Mill Park and providing shuttles for others. “We want to encourage people to get to the festival in more sustainable ways,” Murphy says.
For the first time in its long history, the festival now also offers free tickets to students and teachers with IDs.
“We want to make the festival accessible to as many people as possible,” Murphy says.
The two-day art affair features more than 100 exhibiting art booths, though Murphy points out competition to get into the fest is fierce.
“Every year we get about 400 applications from all over the country and the world,” she says.
The weekend also includes live music from the likes of the Reed Fromer Band and Lorin Rowan, children’s entertainment such as puppeteers and storytellers, food booths sponsored by local nonprofits and more.
“It’s the inauguration of the fall season and it feels like a reunion when you see people you haven’t seen in a while,” Murphy says. “The feeling of community that happens under the redwoods is iconic.”