The was founded in 1902.
Ninety-five year later, club leaders began taking that moniker quite literally for one of their signature events, the , by putting artists within the gardens themselves and having them paint the scene in front of them on the day of the tour.
That tradition continues for this year’s 18th annual edition, set for Thursday, April 26 at five local homes. The tour begins at 9:30 a.m. from the club’s home at 1 West Blithedale Avenue, with guests encouraged to walk, bike or take the free shuttle to the homes, all located within walking distance of downtown Mill Valley.
Mill Valley painter Linda Rosso painted the garden of a home near Boyle Park for the tour’s 2010 edition and says she’s thrilled to do so again.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” Rosso says. “You get to meet a real cross-section of people, some of whom are just out for a nice day with friends and others who bend down and look at every leaf and flower in the garden. It’s great fun.”
Rosso set up in a small, intimate garden with a lot of low plants in 2010. The homeowner had two little dogs, inspiring Rosso to paint “A Dog's Eye View” of the garden (at right). As part of the tour’s tradition, the painting is a gift to the homeowner for hosting the tour.
The idea to have artists creating within the gardens being toured came from former garden tour chair Barbara Yates, who saw the concept on a tour in the Seattle area. Kay Carlson of Greenbrae was the first artist to participate, and it became an annual part of the tour in 2002.
Though the exact locations of the homes are a surprise as usual, organizers say the homes on this year’s tour were built between 1909 and 1941 and include a 1929 Craftsman home that was restored using green building practices and sustainable technologies.
The tour is the club’s only public fundraiser of the year. The club has donated more than $260,000 over the past 15 years to local nonprofits like the , the Marin Literacy Program and Ritter Center.
Rosso, who started doing landscape and still life painting five years ago after being a collector for years, has enjoyed a great success in a short period of time. A veteran marketing and communications consultant, Rosso started showing her work in 2009 and has already done so at MOCA (Marin Museum of Contemporary Art), the Marin County Fair and Marin Society of Artists and on the Mill Valley Art Commission’s First Tuesday Art Walk. Her smaller paintings are sold at at 1 El Paseo Lane downtown.
“I always thought I could do it and knew I could draw but it’s something that I never put together until recently,” Rosso said. “It’s been great.”
The 411: The ’s 18th annual is Thursday, April 26. Shuttles leave the Outdoor Art Club at 1 West Blithedale Ave. in starting at 9:30 a.m. The last shuttle leaves the clubhouse at 2:00 p.m. Tickets at the door for the tour are $45. A luncheon is served at the Club from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for $15. For more information and reservations go to the club's website.