New leadership, fresh ideas unfold at Arts Alliance Davis

Photo: Steve Isaacson of Davis Musical Theatre Company leads Arts Alliance Davis members on a tour through the theater’s sound and light room, behind the seats. Wendy Weitzel/Courtesy photo

by Wendy Weitzel

Arts Alliance Davis welcomed a new leader and thanked its outgoing president at its Oct. 25 meeting at Davis Musical Theatre Company.

Pence Gallery director Natalie Nelson served as the volunteer chair of the Alliance for three years, bringing it to fruition with Rachel Hartsough, the city of Davis’ arts and culture manager, and others.

“This group would not have continued without Natalie, because she kept it going,” said Hartsough, who gave Nelson flowers and a card signed by attendees. “There’s more collaboration and people participating because of her.”

Autumn Labbé-Renault, executive director of Davis Media Access, took the reins Thursday as the new chair of the organization. “Collaborative leadership is my thing, so when Natalie and Rachel approached me, I was happy to say yes. I’ve gotten a lot out of this group in terms of networking and resources, and I’m happy to help the organization continue moving forward.”

Arts Alliance Davis meets every other month, at rotating venues. The collaborative effort unites artists, civic and arts organizations, businesses, patrons and other community arts allies. It’s open to anyone who creates, supports or enjoys art. The host this time was Davis Musical Theatre Company, at 607 Peña Drive in Davis.

Steve Isaacson, who, with his wife, Jan, founded what is now DMTC 33 years ago, offered the nearly 30 attendees a tour of the facility, showing off its backstage storage of props, set designs and costumes; its orchestra pit; and digital lighting and sound systems. The facility is used for rehearsals and performances in the evenings but sits mostly empty each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Isaacsons, in a partnership with the city, hope to generate more revenue for the organization by renting out the 10,000-square-foot space during the day for meetings, classes or performance-related activities.

Upcoming shows this season include “Annie” (starting Nov. 2), “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (with a New Year’s Eve preview party), “Oliver,” “The Pajama Game” and “Rent.”

Katy Karns, ArtAbout coordinator for Davis Downtown, spoke next. She’s looking for sponsors to expand programming. Funds would build platforms for music and live art experiences, support a kids’ art corner, develop a docent program, and pay for rotating mural walls where artists would do live paintings.

“We’re really trying to make it a cohesive, all-ages event and bring more revenue downtown,” Karns said, in as many avenues as possible.

She’s organizing the list of artists and venues so when patrons want to focus on sculpture or music, for example, organizers can quickly direct them. The event always needs artists and venues. If you are a local business interested in hosting artwork or having your work presented, email [email protected].

Jessica Wimbley, the new director of education at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, spoke about the Bruce Nauman exhibit, “Blue and Yellow Corridor,” on view through Dec. 17. The museum re-created a corridor from Nauman’s 1970 drawing. It’s “a narrow passageway that wraps around an existing room, combining fluorescent light and closed-circuit video to manipulate the viewer’s perceptual experience,” the program says. An adjacent gallery shows other works from the artist.

“What’s interesting about the Blue and Yellow Corridor, if you actually go and see it, it might not be the color that you expected,” Wimbley told the group. “It has the museum gradient colors, with those nice, beautiful warm yellows and purples and pinks, and that’s a surprise that we actually found when we installed the exhibition. In other places, it was literally just blue and yellow, so we consider it a sign that it was meant to be at the Manetti Shrem.”

Starting Jan. 29, the museum will host “Landscape Without Boundaries Selections,” a yearlong exhibit showcasing artists in and around Davis and their interpretations of the landscape. Featured artists, from the museum’s collection, include Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Gladys Nilsson, Martin Ramirez and Wayne Thiebaud.

Much of the agenda at the Arts Alliance meetings is devoted to announcements, where attendees get a few minutes to share details of their projects, and collect flyers and postcards for upcoming events. Participants represented various areas of visual art, dance, music, video, radio, photography, theatre, comedy and the organizations that host them.

Matt Blake, representing Davis Live Music Collective, thanked the organizer for hosting the gathering. “It’s important to have community arts projects that bring us all together.”

Jen Nachmanoff, whose Davis Manor neighborhood recently organized to paint a mosaic bench, said working together with other Davis residents is energizing. “Doing community arts projects is a great way to build community, to build resilience within a community.”

Hartsough noted that many of the attendees were UC Davis graduates looking to connect. “Something is drawing people back to the community,” she said. The Alliance is a perfect way to harness that energy.

She encouraged artists to share their events and announcements via the Alliance website and various social media, which can all be accessed via

The next meetings of Arts Alliance Davis will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, March 14 and May 16. The venues are to be determined. For more information, to post an event or opportunity listing, or to subscribe to be on the mailing list or become a member, visit or contact Rachel Hartsough at [email protected].