Out There Artist Profile:
Tony Speirs


Santa Rosa is proud to showcase our city’s incredible collection of artists by commissioning original pieces for the Out There In The Middle of Everything campaign. If you like what you see, you can purchase prints, or perhaps a t-shirt at the SR Store by clicking here.

SpeirsTony Speirs grew up on cartoons and old comics. After a long stint as a professional screen printer and sign painter he attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Once he began painting in earnest, however, he quickly created a cult following. Tony incorporates elements from nature, vintage pop-culture graphics and old board game designs into his work. He shows regularly around the Bay Area and has produced several large-scale installations for Burning Man and other local festivals.

You can see more of his work at: tonyspeirs.com


You're good art, Charlie Brown.

Follow the trail of Peanuts comic characters and you may find yourself at the epicenter of the Santa Rosa art scene.

Most visitors to Santa Rosa are well familiar with the random and motley sculptures of Peanuts comic strip characters around town. Words like whimsical and cute may pop to mind but probably not thoughts of contemporary culture nor high art.

IMG_9277Zoom in - Made entirely of Peanuts comic strips

As an advocate for public art and place-making, I’ve had mixed feelings about these figures for years. And yet, the more I learn about the artistic heritage, culture and vibrant art scene here, the easier it is to look at Santa Rosa's iconic comic as a kind of gateway drug to appreciating what one might consider more challenging or intellectual arts.

To start that journey, you need only follow the Snoopy trail back to the Charles M. Schulz museum. There you'll discover not a pop art tourist trap, but a very contemporary museum that honors not only the artist, but also the person who was Charles Schulz.


The museum hosts some permanent exhibitions as well as a great history of rotating shows. It offers residency programs to visiting artists and hosts book signing events. Most recently The Chuck hosted a book signing and artist’s talk by the well-known artist Camille Rose Garcia. Garcia is a favorite artist in the Low Brow art world of such magazines as Juxtapose and Last Gasp Publishing. Originally from the Los Angeles area, she recently relocated to the Northern California redwoods and has just released a book of her work.

100_0039-1180x841Camille Rose Garcia

Visit online at SchulzMuseum.org

Meanwhile, at the Art Museums of Sonoma County, the high king of Low Brow will be showing his work at a couple of special events over the next month. Robert Williams is a true maverick who sought to create vital work that channeled the shifting energies and immediacy of counterculture, from the 60’s onward.

Death-by-ExasperationRobert Williams - Death By Exasperation

As the founder of Juxtapose Magazine, Williams’ enduring influence on the New Contemporary movement is undeniable. The current exhibit, SLANG Aesthetics! The Art of Robert Williams, runs June 5 through September 20 at the Museums of Sonoma County.

Williams-Pathos-in-Paper-MacheRobert Williams - Pathos In Paper Mache



Mural, Mural

I'm happy to report that there's been an exciting uptick in public art.

rose2(Laura Hoffman)

Much of this recent increase in murals is manifesting itself in the form of beautification of forgotten walls. Street art and commissioned murals are finally making their way in to the artistic lexicon of Santa Rosa. Murals have long been loved by other urban centers as a unique way to create public spaces out of forgotten alleys and blighted neighborhoods.

BUD3horz(Bud Snow)

Recently there has been a change in the local perception that once seemed to equate a mural’s existence with creating a down-market environment rather than lifting one up. Fortunately the international notoriety of certain street artists and their elevation to high art have softened the local resistance to murals and large scale wall pieces, creating a nice addition to our civic landscape.

tbarr(Todd Barricklow)

About ten years ago residents in the Roseland community were getting fed up with the constant wanna-be gang tags on their fences. They reached out to local Artist Laura Hoffman who worked with a group of SR neighborhood kids and the City of Santa Rosa Graffiti Abatement Program. They used donated paints to create a series of murals on private property. Unwittingly, these folks who were just trying to erase an ugly underbelly in the community created a unique walking tour and helped define the neighborhood in a beautiful way.

erikburke(Eric Burke)

More recently the Sonoma County Museum reached out to a number of artists to commission a series of murals on what will soon become their contemporary annex. Julia Davis, Todd Barricklow, Jared Powell, Carlos de Villasante and Judy Kennedy were all tapped to create temporary murals to compliment the space and ongoing construction.

rose4(Laura Hoffman)

Last year Judy Kennedy and I worked with the local non-profit teen mentoring organization, ArtStart, to raise money for two giant murals to grace a derelict and abandoned building on the edge of town.

rose3(Laura Hoffman)

While these examples span the arc of technical skill and artistic taste, they all help to contribute to well loved spaces and add to our sense of community and belonging.


Found Objects

Zack Rhodes doesn’t consider himself a great artist.

zackrhodesWhile we beg to differ, it's surely true that the greatness of his art likely lies in their conceptual ideas. For the last few months Rhodes, who posts under the name zr_art on Instagram, has been hiding his small paintings around Santa Rosa, then posting clues on social media about their location. Hundreds of people wait for his clues every Friday and the game is on, in his local adaptation of Free Art Friday. Taking inspiration from a recent trip to Austin, TX, where a group of artists and crafters participate in a city-wide version, sometimes including over a hundred contributors and an untold amount of eager arts lovers who scramble around the city hoping to be the first to find art by their favorite contributors.

Zack himself doesn’t have any formal artistic training but grew up always making art and being inspired by his grandmother who was a professional artist and teacher. He enjoys the exuberant responses he gets when people find his art and he has an ever-growing following who enjoy the thrill of the hunt and an opportunity of bragging rights as the winners often post their spoils online.

I joined Zack last week on a recent stakeout of sorts. We walked around downtown Santa Rosa and talked about community, art, activism and pretty much everything else, while we found a suitable location for his latest painting. He took a quick photo and posted it on Instagram. Within minutes someone beelined for the work and swooped it up. The finder quickly went to a nearby bench and tore open the package as Zack walked up. The two shook hands and acknowledged that this was a second find for Gabe, who’d been keeping up with the game for over a month.

As they sat and talked another eager art lover ran across the grass only to be disappointed when she identified the location and didn’t see the package. She quickly scanned the area and saw Gabe and Zack and the Prize. Without hesitation she walked over and introduced herself. She’s a student at Humboldt State University who has been stalking Zack’s Instagram account from up home and was excited to actually be in town this Friday. Sad that she missed her chance to find the painting first, but thrilled to have met the artist, she left saying she had one more chance before she headed back to college.

Zack is hoping to get other artists involved and work with the city on a Free Art Fridays project this spring. In the mean time you can get involved by following his Instagram account @ zr_art