The Dripping Signature

In an unassuming side street of downtown Santa Rosa you walk by the indian restaurant and local newspaper building to a door between blacked out windows with white lettering. 4,000 square feet of warehouse with multiple levels and disciplines invites you into a land created for just one night. It’s a gallery but the art is not hung on the walls. It is the walls. Spray painted, wheat pasted portraiture, abstract, political murals from a group that has nothing to sell and alias identities to leave behind. The door frames, floors, stairs, and trash cans have all been given hand tags that fill in what space was left between mural art. Signatures drip, eyes pop out, figures can be deciphered to show the origin stories behind each style and we’ve been invited to a club that never meets but often works together under the cover of darkness.

If we were anywhere else this would be entirely illegal. Yet this has nothing to do with hate, crime or gangs. It is a celebration of an artform that is growing in acceptance, but rarely outside of the larger metropolitan area. Yet our local Riley Art Street and Village Art Supply carry niche spray paint brands with varieties of caps for calibration and pressure control. I am told that people came from across the state to see some of these pieces. Other attendees can be heard commenting “I didn’t know you could get that fine of detail”.

A well known local artist who has been working in this medium for 25 years sees them akin to sand mandalas, with beauty in their temporary nature. The curator likes to use the word “ephemeral” for the style and feeling. Each of the 40+ artists is a professional, they sell their art in other standard fine art and contemporary galleries with white walls, solo shows and rotating collections but with this event, they share a part of their creativity that rarely gives an invitation. We cannot take any of this home, we cannot claim it and add it to our collections. This is a glimpse into a scene that holds secrecy and trust paramount, anything else gets martyrdom. Some choose to add their efforts in the midst of the show. An artist gives out paint pens then fades back to watch their piece covered up and added to by the signatures of patrons.

I learn that there are hard rules. No churches, schools or houses. There is an ego threat, to be known can bring infamy that leads to being caught but a growing fanbase get excited by bolder efforts, although they will certainly get removed or painted over. Seeing an audience with a diversity of ages gives the anonymous creators of this exhibit hope that mainstream views are changing and the aspects of their work can be seen as multi-layered as any classic style. The initial reaction of destructive resistance can make way for an appreciation of color and imagery added to the grey and beige decor of a small city overflowing with creatives.

Santa Rosa is lucky enough to have small groups of determined people that clean out warehouses, put in time after work, coordinate friends and neighbors and open their spaces to show the outside what they’ve been working on. Pop-up events and festivals can be found throughout each season because our weather never really deters them. Something is stirring in our creative sector as more small galleries open their doors, businesses invite in local talent and curators weave together showcases. Events like these are all over the area, and throughout the year you just have to follow the right artist, catch the right conversation or walk down the right side street to share in the creation.

The Corner Store Collective

Convenience Store
Address: 575 Ross St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401


Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival Photo Booth

We brought the #OutThereSR Welcome Wagon to the newly reunified Courthouse Square for the 123rd annual Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival, one of Sonoma County’s most honored traditions and one of the oldest and largest events of its kind in Northern California. Check out the photo booth portraits from the event:


The fabulous Dirt Crits

Late on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the heart of Santa Rosa, there are bicyclists of all shapes and sizes lining up to test their mettle for a few hot laps of good old-fashioned bike racing in Howarth Park.

The Dirt Crits, Santa Rosa’s longest running mountain bike race series, are in full swing. This is the eleventh race of the year, the penultimate battle before summer starts its gradual fade into fall. The smell of sizzling hot dogs permeates the air. The vibe is cheerful, laid-back and convivial as the kids line up to race, their faces lit up with excitement. Astride all types of mountain bikes, from steel hand-me-downs to carbon fiber racing machines, they listen intently as Chris Wells (current Dirt Crits organizer, Bike Peddler manager, and nicest guy in the world) announces the rules and prepares the young racers for takeoff. The crowd of parents, fellow racers, and onlookers cheer as the Juniors charge off the line in a cloud of golden dust.

The Dirt Crits began at a time when mountain bike racing was at a lull in the United States. Road biking was king, but even so, pre-Tour, pre-Fondo Santa Rosa was a ghost town when it came to cycling events. The mountain biking boom of the 80s and 90s had quieted down, and long-running races such as the Rockhopper were gone. Duncan Arnot Meyers moved back to Sonoma County in 1999 and decided to start an event similar to the ones he had been racing in Durango.

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“The City was very cool about helping me do everything to get it going. I pulled it off solo the first year, then Pedro Rusk and Chuck Scarpelli started helping me the next year. They ran it together for a few years before the Bike Peddler took over.”

Chris Wells started racing the Dirt Crits in 2002 after moving to Santa Rosa from Chicago. “I’d get off of work, race over there, and catch the A race. I’d get lapped by everybody, so I wanted to race in the B’s. So the next year, I talked the Bike Peddler into sending me there to support. I helped Pedro and Chuck out for a couple of years and then I took it over. Carlos Perez started showing up to the races, and then he began Bike Monkey after that. He wanted to try out some timing stuff at the Crits.” As it turned out, Carlos’ “timing stuff” became the foundation of Bike Monkey as the local race-production powerhouse responsible for well-known bike events such as Levi’s Gran Fondo, Boggs Enduro, and the Annadel XC.

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That homebrewed, DIY approach to racing is a key element in mountain bike culture, an element which Wells is glad to share with riders of all levels and abilities. As he puts it, “The Dirt Crits are a way of introducing people to this culture, this community. It’s a race, but there’s not a focus on getting first, second, or third place. It’s not just an introduction to mountain bike racing, but an introduction to mountain biking in general. What’s cool about this course is a six-year-old can do two or three laps on it, but it can also be interesting for pro-level racers. It’s just ten bucks, you’re not going to lose anything, and you discover that racing’s not that scary. It’s about showing up and giving it a shot.”

If you’d like to give it a shot, Dirt Crits ride every Wednesday through August, at Howarth Park, with bye weeks June 7th and July 12th. For details and more information, visit Bike Monkey or the Bike Peddler (605 College Avenue).


IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa Photo Booth

SWIM. BIKE. RUN. The #OutThereSR Welcome Wagon was at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa in the newly reunified Courthouse Square. The event was a big hit with thousands of people visiting downtown to cheer on the athletes at the finish line. Check out the portraits: