Art & Ag ProjectYolo County
For decades, Yolo County has been a leader in farmland preservation in California. The culture of agriculture resonates from the county’s land grant university (University of California, Davis) and throughout the farms and fields of the county. To ensure continued public support for the balance between urban areas and open farmland the Yolo community is undertaking a variety of innovative programs. One of these is the first-of-its-kind Art and Ag Project, combining two of Yolo County’s prime resources: a high concentration of artists and its rich heritage of farming and beautiful working landscapes. The program invites artists to paint, draw, sculpt and photograph Yolo County’s farms with the full participation of local farmers. Bringing together artists and farmers in this program has already created a ‘buzz’ — and is helping raise awareness about the importance of preserving working landscapes through the visual arts.
The funding from ArtPlace now plays a central role in supporting the success of this effort. It has enabled YoloArts to expand the project by funding artist and farmer stipends, master artist workshops, social networking and video documentation, as well as commissioning a major work of public art.
This month we are continuing our Master Artist Workshops – this time on a sprawling 15,000 acre farm – which will be quite different from the 30 acre organic farm we visited last month. Thus continuing to fulfill our mission to represent the variety of farming operations in our county.
ArtPlace spoke with Art and Ag Project Manager Janice Purnell.
ARTPLACE: What will be different in your community as a result of your work?
PURNELL: It already is different: At a recent visit to a new Artist’s Co-op Yolo County, everyone had heard of the Art and Ag Project and were eager to be put on our mailing list and participate in our Artist to Farm visits. It has become an established program, and for plein air artists especially, a real resource that is spreading by word of mouth. And alternately when I attended a Yolo Land Trust event last weekend there were a number of farmers who already knew about the program and wanted to get on our farm visit schedule for next year. It has become a known quantity – but that doesn’t mean we won’t keep on promoting it through every avenue we can. But what it does mean is that:
1. The Arts have moved up the ranks as a partner – the emails keep coming in with requests from organizations, farms, business and artists to partner on exhibitions, events and public art.
2. Folks are more educated about art. They are talking about owning art, they want to see art, they want to experience art. Through our Art Farm exhibit art has become accessible and many people have the opportunity to own some original art – reflecting the soul and spirit of their community – and to actually meet the artist who made it.
3. The Art and Ag Project has given a new voice to our heritage (Ag) and it has instilled a greater sense of pride for farmers and artists. It has brought together two communities – that don’t always find common ground. Now they have it and that common ground is the farmland of Yolo County. And taking that sense of pride even further will be the commissioning of a work of public art to be installed at the front entrance of the County Administration Building for all to see. This work of public art will be a permanent reflection of the importance of this project to our community.
Thanks to the funding provided by ArtPlace America the Art and Ag project has been able to take our project to the next level and provide our county with a solid foundation to expand and cultivate appreciation for the attributes that make our county a unique place to live.