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The Arts
09.16.09

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Phaedra

Open Farewell

ACNV's Michelle Williams' last Open Studios

By Gretchen Giles


Man, are we going to miss Michelle Williams. By "we," I refer to every artist and art lover in the Napa Valley, as well as those who think that there should be more to do in the Napa area than just put stuff in your mouth.

The executive director of the Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV) for the past five years, Williams has just announced her resignation in order to take the executive director spot at the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz's gain is our loss, though the North Bay has had an excellent half-decade run of Williams' business-like intelligence. She has brought health insurance to ACNV members, introduced an art-in-the-schools program, initiated the Commission Arts and Culture and launched an artist registry as well as revitalizing the area with an economic-impact study relating the arts to the economy. And these are just a few of her accomplishments.

Making the ACNV an umbrella organization overseeing the disparate art-related nonprofits in the valley, Williams has brought the annual Open Studios event—this year slated for Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 19–20 and 26–27—screaming into the 21st century by instituting a juried entrance system, overseeing exhibition and artist studio spaces and by encouraging a higher level of work for the program. As part of her ongoing commitment to reminding civic leaders that art has a rightful spot in the economy, she is this year canvassing not only artists but Open Studio visitors to discover how much bounty is indeed brought into the county when one travels to Napa, stays overnight, inevitably chooses to eat and tours the studios. Unlike the Arts Council of Sonoma County, which tracks to the penny the amount spent and the number of visitors streaming through their ARTrails open studios event, this is just the second year that Napa has tried to suss the figures.

"We're really trying to demonstrate the economic impact of the arts," Williams says. "We'd love to have this information to make the case to our civic leaders." William leaves her post on Sept. 30, assuredly having made her case.

Arts Council Napa Valley present a self-guided, fine-art discovery tour featuring 88 talented artists in their own studios, Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 19–20 and 26–27, from 10am to 5pm. Free. To preview, go to www.nvosartist.com.


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