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Celebrate agriculture at a new venue

For The Madera Tribune
Madera County Arts Council and Circle Gallery Executive Director Rochelle Noblett works on hanging the Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts exhibit at the new Circle Gallery location.


With the summer drawing to a close, the Madera County Arts Council (MCAC) was trying to deal with a situation: What do you do with a newly-painted building in a new location, a brand new floor, and 5,000 square feet of space? The answer was clear to Rochelle Noblett, executive director of the nonprofit organization: Display art. Lots and lots of art. Really, really good art.


The occasion is the 25th anniversary of Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts, a competition and exhibition that started in 1994 with a grant from the California Arts Council. The first year, the organization promoted local artists whose agriculturally themed art was entered in the statewide California Countryside Festival. According to Noblett, that event was such a resounding success that the MCAC established Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts as an annual tribute to the farmers, ranchers, vintners, and related services of the San Joaquin Valley.


Over the years, the affair has drawn artists from around the state, and the awards have increased to $3,000 in cash prizes. The “Best of Show” award is $500, with First and Second Place winners in each category receiving $300 and $200, respectively. Entries are accepted in five categories: Crops and Finished Products, Machinery and Structures, Agriculture’s Animal Friends, The Human Factor, and Water: Agriculture’s Lifeblood.


The MCAC’s gallery is in a new location this year: 424 North Gateway Drive, and the greatly increased space has made it possible for each category of art to be displayed in its own room. “Crops and Finished Products” will be shown in the Main Gallery, about 1,000 square feet just inside the front doors. As one meanders through that space and turns right through the gift shop, one enters Gallery II, where “Agriculture’s Animal Friends” reside. If you visit the exhibition, be sure to see the cow that is fashioned from computer parts, including bits of memory boards, floppy disks, and even an old computer mouse.


There are two rooms off the back (west and north) of Gallery II, the Conference Room and the future Photography Studio. Art depicting “The Human Factor” will be found in the Conference Room, and renditions of “Machinery and Structures” are in the room that will eventually be a photography studio.


In the front section of the building, between the Main Gallery and various offices (executive director’s office, gallery manager’s office, and file room), there is a space (yet to be named) that will house “Water: Agriculture’s Lifeblood.”


A large classroom, badly needed for the past quarter of a century, is on the north side of the building. For the opening of the agriculture show, the 800 square-foot space will display a 40-foot long by 8-foot high mural, “Women of the World,” that was painted by women inmates of the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. Eventually, according to Noblett, the mural will be prepared for exposure to the elements and will be mounted on the exterior of the north wall to draw attention to the facility.


The building is the property of Philip and Klina Oberti who have generously remodeled and renovated it to meet the needs of the MCAC. They worked closely with architect Robby Antoyon and contractor Angelo Silva to upgrade the existing structure and make other improvements that will be continuing over the next few months.


A reception for the public to meet the artists will be held on Thursday, September 13, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Everyone who appreciates the arts is invited, and admission is free.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.