A former warehouse across West Street from the Napa skate park is emerging as the valley's most intriguing arts nonprofit.
Slack Collective Art Studios and Gallery is the brainchild of local musician and arts activist Paul Slack, whose vision of a community-run arts space has attracted a diverse group of young and old North Bay residents.
One part of the building at the corner of Pearl and West streets, around the corner from Slack's family-run Boom Candy & Sweets and Bloom Creative Hair Design & Art Gallery, is divided into individual, unwalled studio spaces rented by the month to local artists.
Slack recently added a gift shop selling artworks, T-shirts, publications and musical recordings by collective members.
A lobby with a refrigerator and bookcases laden with a dizzying variety of texts divides the studios from the gallery and performance space now known as the Black and White.
The white-walled gallery is designed for displaying artwork, while the black peformance space hosts music and comedy shows, community meetings and other events.
Open mic draws crowds
The Black and White is also home to an increasingly-popular monthly open mic, generally held on the second Friday of the month and run by Vintage High School graduate Xulio Soriano.
The open mic attracts an all-ages crowd for an evening of 10- to 15-minute appearances that generally include folk music, rock, avant-garde, storytelling and occasionally some smutty stand-up comedy.
A trio of interns from New Technology High School assists Soriano, acting as masters of ceremonies, working the sound system and taking donations at the door.
Regular performers include:
- Soriano, an accomplished ocarina player who also raps and recites poetry
- Tim Bacon, a powerful young singer/songwriter and guitarist from American Canyon
- David Bettini, a Napa singer and banjo player in his 60s with a mastery of the classic folk repertoire; he also paints and recently showed several works in the gallery
- Paul Marotta, an underground rock innovator from Cleveland, currently living in Napa, whose recently-released double vinyl EP of 1970s recordings by his band the Styrenes is available in the Slack gift shop
- Benicia guitarist and songwiter/singer, also an accomplished photographer who chronicles the open mic with his camera and posts the performer portraits on the Slack Collective Facebook page
- Napa rock guitarist/singer Sean Des Jardins, formerly of Ove the Garden
- Napa bassist Chris Turvill
- Heavy-metal-oriented Napa band Suicidal Justice
- The Radio Effect, a pop group formed by the New Tech interns
Performers often join forces during the evening for unexpected new sounds.
Editor's disclosure: A regular attendee, I also have performed at the open mic three times, once reading a short story by Richard Brautigan and twice singing excerpts from Terry Riley's "In C" with groups including Turvill, Soriano and my boyfriend Marotta. Louisa
Kickstarter campaign gains traction
The collective is currently in the last day of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that has already exceeded its objective.
Asking donors to contribute toward a $2,500 goal, the Black and White had earned more than $2,700 from 42 backers by Wednesday morning. The campaign ends Thursday a few minutes after 1 p.m.
Why the appeal for funds? Writes Soriano in his Napa Valley Patch blog,
The Black & White is a room with old lights, peeling paint, and a chill factor as cold as ice. This fundraiser will enable us to purchase necessities for a comfortable space that our community will enjoy and take seriously.
Our team focuses on alternative culture, youth and underground art. A hard sell in a place like Napa, California. A warm pleasing environment is crucial for a project like this.
Our production team is small, and local publications are few, therefore a percentage of the funds will be used for community outreach.
To find out more, watch the videos with this story and read Soriano's complete blog post .
You can also hear Soriano talk about the Black and White live on Napa Valley TV Wednesday evening on the N.A.P.A. Show with Arty "Party" Reyes. The call-in show starts at 6:30 p.m. on cable channel 28, Uverse 99 and napavalleytv.org.
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