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more articles like this

Art City Ventura
updated: Jun 19, 2010, 10:15 AM

By Billy Goodnick

By now you've heard that Ed is expanding his unquenchable thirst for worldwide media domination to the San Luis Obispo and Ventura areas.

Yo! Kern County! You might be next.

Hey, Murdoch! Watch your rear view mirror, Slick.

There's nothing sinister about it. Edhat is a wellspring of goodness, humor and entertainment. It serves as the town square for news, ideas and opinions. Edhat is totally democratic, giving everyone a platform, as long as they keep it civil.

I've been writing my Thoughts From The Garden Of Ed(en) for a couple of years and haven't run out of material yet. I have a lot to draw from: I'm a writer who's also a landscape architect, who's also a teacher. And sometimes, when "I can't stands no more", I speak my mind about the aesthetically and environmentally boneheaded things people do in their gardens.

But I'm in a bit of a bind, journalistically speaking. By spreading his reach across the tri-county area, Ed has exploded my reporting territory from the measly 3,789 square miles of Santa Barbara County to a staggering nine thousand, six hundred and thirteen (It looks more imposing when I spell it out).

While one part of my brain is thinking "Great exposure for the book you're writing, Billy," the rational, Spockian lobe is wondering, "So, what the hell am I gonna write about?"

I can't just blather about my comfy little horticultural paradise of Santa Barbara or the f'ugly butchery of hapless shrubs. I need to capture the attention of readers in the hinterlands-learn their customs, and sample their strange foods.

I'm asking all the Ventura and SLO lookie-loos poking around for the first time, as well as my loyal Santa Barbara fans: Tell me what's going on horticulturally in your ‘hood. Introduce me to the people stepping up to the plate and doing earth-friendly gardens, growing food where lawns reigned, innovating, creating art and making their neighborhoods better places.

I need sources, feet on the ground, eyes acutely tuned. If you want to help out, drop a comment at the end of this article. Thanks!

South of the (Santa Barbara) Border

I do have one fabulous story from a scruffy industrial dead-end street on Ventura's west side.

Art City Studio (197 Dubbers St. Ventura, CA) is a fantasyland of stone-shafts of raw, rough, black-scarred basalt; twenty-foot towers of stacked travertine, internally lit, coming to life after dark.

For years, I've been hearing tales of Art City from landscape designers raving about the custom fountains their sculptors conjure up. Since I'm not only having my Edhat turf expanded 250%, but also writing for Conejo Valley-based 805 Living magazine, I decided to sniff around for a story.

This art lover's wonderland occupies a sizeable lot surrounded by unapologetic industrial buildings, stacks of shipping containers, and car mechanics. But you instantly know you're somewhere special. Along the sidewalk, rough-hewn columns of Kansas limestone, or "post rock", signal something unexpected in this invisible neighborhood.

Paul Lindhard is a sculptor, businessman, teacher, art community doer and the father of Art City. I ran into him as he was standing in front of a vertical panel filled with two sensuous stacks of smooth, rounded sandstone. The rocks don't look much different than the river-washed sandstone you might stub your toe on while hiking, but they're very special. In their last incarnation, these 17 stones were part of the foundation of the San Buenaventura Mission's orchard wall.

Paul is creating this simple, graceful sculpture to adorn an exterior wall at the WAV (Working Artists Ventura) arts complex in downtown Ventura. This ultra-green project provides affordable live/work apartments for 50 artists, a gallery space and performance center.

It's not likely I'll be in the market for a towering 20-foot cairn anytime soon, but G. Ramon Byrne's fountains would be so sweeeeeeeet in one of my garden designs. I interrupted Ramon while he was ever so precisely polishing the surface of a bowl that will top another of his serene water sculptures and asked him to show me some of his work.

This fountain, carved from imperial blue granite, greets visitors just inside the gate. Paper-thin water sheets from the bowl, adhering to the voluptuous base and into a stone-covered pool. The restrained combination of Aloe arborescens and Agave attenuata add their own sculptural burst to the focal point.

The pieces JoAnne Duby is currently working are smaller and more refined than most of the other artists' works. Her sculptures seem to draw their forms from nature-some are abstract (like the alabaster example pictured below) and some realistic. Much of her work is stylish and genteel enough to place in the home.

JoAnne, a former ceramics teacher at Santa Barbara City College, is the longest active member (other than Paul) at Art City, having set up shop in 1988.

Amid all the stone, power tools and chiseling, there are little oases of vegetation that tame some of the visual chaos of stone piles and outbursts of scrap metal. There's a distinctly tropical feel from banana trees, canna lilies and this visually explosive South African tree aloe.

A recently constructed restroom, designed by architect Bruce Labins, is a work of art, crafted from rough timbers and lots of industrial looking galvanized metal. The downspout from the winged roof gushes into a stone bowl surrounded by an undulating pebble mosaic by Kevin Carman.

Reasons To Visit Art City

Art For Art's Sake: Even if you're not in the market for art, nor contemplating taking up a 7/16" Rondel round chisel and 8-pound carbide-tip, single-edge, concave-tapered finishing hammer, you can enjoy looking at works from more than 20 talented sculptors.

Look Behind The Curtain: Instead of seeing finished pieces in museums and galleries, you'll see art being born out of blocks of stone by passionate artists of great talent.

A New Hobby: You might get bitten by the stone carving bug and realize there's no better way to reduce your stress than whacking away at a hunk of stone with a hammer and chisel (goggles and safety gear, please). Cool Factor: You could fall in love with a sculpture and bring it home. All your friends and family, seeing that you have replaced the plastic, yodeling, glow-in-the-dark garden gnome from the 99-cent store with a piece of local, hand-made art, will want to be just like you.

Ventura locals who are already soaking up the fun and cultural offerings of First Friday, will be happy to know that Art City Studio will be added to the tour this summer, possibly as soon as July. If you're not hip to First Friday, get on the stick, Rick.

[Note: I took a lot more photos than I can include in this blog post. If you want to see more of what's up, I'll have a gallery of images posted at my Flickr site, titled Art City. You can link them here.

Art City is a good start for my expanded coverage, but I'm not sure how much my good luck will hold out. So send me your ideas and I'll see what resonates. In the meantime, stop by Art City Studio and see what the buzz is about.

Art City Studio and its artists
First Friday Ventura
Bruce Labins Architect
Ventura Arist's Union
Working Artists Ventura (WAV)

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 GREENTOO agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-19 11:23 AM

Billy, I was wondering when and if you would venture to Ventura (ha!). Great stuff about Art City Ventura, a new destination for me, and good pictures. How about an article about native/sustainable garden projects and resources in your new areas. Starting point: There is a beautifull little native plant nursery on the right curve of the Telephone Rd. exit of 101 southbound. (enter off Main St.)


 BILLY GOODNICK agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-19 01:19 PM

GreenToo: Nice to see that my article caught your eyeballs! I just heard about that nursery yesterday and have added it to my list. Hope to run across a few like-minded designers too. If you hear of or see any gardens that turn your head, lemme know. Thanks!


 COMMENT 83897 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-20 10:22 AM

Hey Billy

Up here in Ess-Elle-Oh county, we've got some horticultural greatness going on, by way of sustainable and interesting garden design; the little-known botanical jewel, Leaning Tree Arboretum at Cal Poly, the mostly yet-to-be-developed San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, and several very good retail nurseries full of Mediterranean garden plants, color, and large stocks of bare root fruit and shade trees.

While we don't have opulent public display gardens like Santa Barbara, the preview garden at the Botanical Garden is maturing, and we do have many private ones that are open during home and garden tours. One of the best tours is the Montessori School tour in Cambria each May. North County also has a great tour as well.

Because we have such a varying array of climate zones, there are designers based in each. Most all are moving to, if not already firmly entrenched in, Mediterranean-style low water use sustainable gardens. Almost all of the local water companies have educational programs designed to help homeowners move towards totally sustainable landscapes. Although we don't have a large Food Not Lawns group here, I hope to see it develop in the near future as many of our coastal communites which rely on ground water are in 'water trouble' already.

Some of my favorite designers are Rick Mathews of Madrone Landscapes, Atascadero; Patricia Cullinan of Cayucos, the team at Sage Ecogardens in Los Osos; and Jeffery Gordon Smith.

One exciting event we have in April is the Central Coast Greenhouse Open House Tour where the wholesalers throw open their doors so the public can buy plants at a discount, sales going to provide horticultural scholarships to local high schoolers. Everything from fancy tropicals to lush color bedding to native plants is availble for purchase.

We also have our share of butchered plants--I see them every day and think "Billy would have a field day with that one!" Mow and Blow is alive and well in SLO.


 COMMENT 83911 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-20 12:27 PM

Landscape as art failed rather badly at Upper Bohnett Park on San Andres Street, where no one seems to know how to use the little art park. Sadly underused and under-appreciated bit of green in this densly populated area. But at least no one has badly vandalized this unique little place either ...yet. Art does soothe the wild beast.


 COMMENT 83940 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-20 04:56 PM

Westside Locos claim Bohnett Park for kickin'.... chllin'.
We're not into landscapin'


 COMMENT 83941 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-20 05:13 PM

If you were a real Westie, you would know that be Lokos, not Locos. You see it written around here enough already if you were really from here.


 COMMENT 83947 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-20 06:52 PM

As in Lokitos?


 IRISROSE agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-20 07:18 PM

Billy - Schools out now, but in the fall, check out the many school gardens that we have here in SB. Tahara at Art From Scrap is the green schools educator and has power point of all the schools' amazing gardens! It's encouraging to see how much gardening the kids are being exposed to! Art from Scraps school educators are available to guide, advise, donate plants, etc to schools for their gardens.

Check it out!

And #83940 - why can't you chill around living rather than dying plants?


 COMMENT 84033 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-21 12:07 PM

Check out Quail Springs in Cuyama / Maricopa

Quail Springs is a permaculture and sustainability demonstration and education farm that serves the communities of Central and Southern California, and people from around the nation and the world.


 BILLY GOODNICK agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-21 02:44 PM

Great comments coming in and a lot of interesting resources. I'm familiar with Quail Springs but haven't visited. Regarding school gardens, that's big on my list, here in my home town and around the Tri-counties. Owen Dell and I have been working on a TV segment about them for our show.

I'm a Cal Poly grad and know my way around, but the leads for the Lone Pine and SLO botanic gardens make me want to jump in my car right now.

As for Bohnett Park, I'll have to respectfully disagree. Yes, it's getting its share of abuse and disrepect (sometimes I wonder if the people "claming" and hammering on parks realize they're taking way from their own brothers, sisters, cousins and family) but I see it being used respectfully and serving as the only green space a lot of people have.

Thanks for all the input... Keep it coming.


 BILLY GOODNICK agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-21 02:45 PM

Sorry - make that Leaning Tree arboretum. How'd I come up with Lone Pine. Sheeesh!


 COMMENT 84322 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-06-22 10:27 AM

@ Irisrose....when we Westie's are chillin' in our park, go ahead and engage us about plants......


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