A New Arts District Is Transforming Napa
November 26, 2018
This burgeoning area in downtown Napa boasts public art and a new spin on cool.
Surrealist houses falling through the air. A portrait of a firefighter. Vivid geometric patterns of color and lines. These are a few sights visitors might spot along an industrial corridor bisected by busy railroad tracks and a multi-use path that is changing Napa’s landscape. The centerpiece: a two-mile-long, two-lane bike path that is flanked by nine giant original murals and nearly two dozen other art installations on signal boxes, chain-link fences, and more. The area is now formally known as RAD Napa, short for Rail Arts District. Since its inception in 2017, it’s been living up to its name—and promises to continue.
At no more than a five-minute walk from downtown Napa and the Oxbow Public Market food hall, RAD Napa is well positioned close to popular hubs. Another bonus: The art is totally free and accessible at any time.
The district is the brainchild of a group of local business and community leaders. The leader of the pack is Scott Goldie, a partner at Brooks Street development firm and co-owner of the Napa Valley Wine Train. To hear Goldie tell it, inspiration came from Wynwood Walls in Miami and the SODO Track in Seattle—both destinations that revolve around modern public art.
“When I first came to the Wine Train [in 2015], this stretch of tracks was known as the cross-city commuter corridor and it had no art and no personality,” he says. “After thinking about these other destinations and how successful they’ve been, it hit me: Why not activate the area with murals?”
Goldie’s vision was to have artists paint the murals on the back walls of industrial buildings that face the train tracks. Thanks to a pair of $25,000 donations from both the Wine Train and the Napa Valley Vine Trail organizations, RAD was able to commission its first three murals.
Last year, RAD doubled down, using additional donations from businesses and individuals to add six more murals and expand the art effort to the signal boxes that line the tracks. Eventually, organizers see the neighborhood being home to 100-plus pieces of public art, as well as parks, gazebos, and other gathering places.
Local and international artists showcase their talents
Muralists come from all over the world to participate in RAD. Polish artists Bezt and Natalia Rak painted a piece titled Knocking on Heaven’s Door that features a young woman (inspired by a real-life woman who works at a local hotel) walking past an old farmhouse at dusk. A Southern California artist who goes by bumblebeelovesyou created a huge mural titled Jack and Jill that depicts a young boy reading a story to a young girl.
Even celebrated Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone has gotten in on the action. His contribution, Chronodynamica, features a geometric wave pattern that appears to move when you go by in the train or on a bike. Pantone has done similar murals in Berlin, New York, and Monterrey, Mexico, among many other cities.
Artists who designed pieces for the signal boxes are worth celebrating, too. One of the boxes bears the work of Norma Quintana, a Napa photographer whose Forage from Fire series is composed of images of artifacts from her home, which burned in the Atlas Peak fire of October 2017
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