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Outdoor Art Club Opens Its Doors to the Masters

The 108-year old Mill Valley institution debuts a new exhibition this weekend, featuring work for sale by Marin-based professional artists.

One of Mill Valley’s longest-running nonprofit organizations, the Outdoor Art Club, will open its doors to the public this weekend for the first-ever , debuting tomorrow night with an artists’ reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and running through Sunday.

Tucked amid a colorful and lovingly-tended garden, the centerpiece of the OAC is Bernard Maybeck’s 1904 Craftsman-style clubhouse, a California Registered Historical Landmark, which this weekend will transform into an art gallery, showcasing the work of eight Marin-based professional artists.

Organizer Constance Birkie, a longtime member of the OAC and past president, is behind this new event, which now joins the annual April Garden Tour as one of the main public fundraising activities of this women’s-only organization.

A jury of OAC members selected the invited artists, with a couple of conditions, according to Birkie. “They had to be from Marin, and they had to be professional, not hobbyists,” she says.

Painting, photography and sculpture will be displayed both outside in the patio and inside the clubhouse, on new movable museum panels with special lighting.

Birkie says the OAC’s many artist-members were excluded from the selection process because the event will be a fundraiser for the organization’s general fund: 40 percent of all sales will go to the OAC, with 60 percent going to the artist.

In their search for artists, jury committees were directed to look for portrait, landscape, pastoral, and impressionist painters, as well as for fine-art photography. Birkie says two sculptors have also been recently added.

Participating artists include Tom Soltesz, Kristin Garneau, Dana Hooper, Douglas Andelin, Katy Kuhn, and Skip Sandberg – the latter three of whom all have called or still call Mill Valley home.

Kuhn is an abstract painter; Andelin, a Tam High graduate from a long line of Mill Valley artists, is a figurative painter whow now lives in Larkspur; and Skip Sandberg is a photographer whose most recent project is the book

Though this is their first foray into a commercial art exhibition, Birkie says that if the event is successful financially, the club will consider making it an annual event.

Aside from its annual garden tour and donations raised among the membership, the majority of the organization’s revenue comes from private event rentals. Weddings, in particular, are their bread and butter, and for good reason: the setting is both intimate and practical, with meandering pathways leading through informal but well-maintained landscaping, an architecturally-significant interior space, and a fully functional catering kitchen. The organization also rents its venue to other nonprofits, and offers a discounted rate to any Mill Valley-registered groups.

Despite the buzz that emanates from the OAC during certain events throughout the year, like the Mill Valley Film Festival's Opening Night reception, it's all too easy to walk by the OAC's tall wooden gate on any other given day without realizing the local treasure that lays within. Birkie hopes this weekend's event will bring more people to the venue, in turn helping both the local artistic community and the organization's bottom line.

The 411: Marin Masters opens with an artists' reception today from 6pm-8pm (no-host bar and free appetizers featured). It continues on Saturday. from 10am to 6pm, and concludes Sunday from 10am - noon. Admission is free. The Outdoor Art Club is located at 1 West Blithedate Avenue.

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