Middletown Art Center Celebrates 9th Anniversary – Lake County Record-Bee

Lisa Kaplan celebrates MAC’s 9th birthday at the Judge’s Breakfast in Clearlake on Thursday. (Nikki Carboni for the Record-Bee).

CLEARLAKE – Lisa Kaplan, Executive and Artistic Director of the Middletown Art Center, was this week’s guest speaker at the Judge’s Breakfast in Clearlake on Thursday. Kaplan shared the excitement of celebrating the day’s nine years of operation while giving a look at the center’s next projects down the line.

According to Kaplan, “MAC was born out of a true love of the arts and a true desire to spread the arts throughout Lake County, because we don’t have enough.” Formed shortly before the Valley Fire in 2015, MAC lost several pieces of art on the Sculpture Walk in the fire and many members lost their homes, inspiring a renaissance of sorts, offering workshops that were directly aimed at and designed to help affected by fire.

These classes included working with local manzanita wood that had survived the fire and helped fire victims resolve the trauma physically through art and wood carving. Kaplan mentioned “When you think of an entire community going through this, it’s a lot of energy.” Helen Owens of Middletown shared her experience in these classes saying, “I took that class, absolutely loved it, took the project home and adjusted it to be a chandelier.”

Today the MAC has grown to a staff of 12 and holds a variety of art exhibitions featuring all types of artists, both local artists and artists from around the world. Kaplan shared that MAC’s goal is to “Engage the public in art creation, art education and art appreciation.” She added that “The art center provides platforms for different voices and perspectives by trying to create an inclusive and accessible space for all”. She called the MAC a “place of hope.” The MAC is currently hosting an exhibit called “Raices Hermosas (Wonderful Roots),” and it’s a vibrant and colorful presentation of 19 LatinX artists that Kaplan linked to the Spanish folk song “De Colores.” Kaplan shared, “We’ve probably all heard that song and suddenly as a non-LatinX person you have a broader understanding of who my neighbors are. We’re making connections, we’re building bridges.”

The center also hosts dances, open mic nights, workshops and classes every weekend and sees hundreds of visiting students on field trips.

The next big project for MAC is painting the water tanks in Middletown. The facility is working with District 1 Supervisor Mike Simon to obtain grant funding to paint tribal-inspired murals on the tank, which has a traffic rate of 30,000 vehicles. The proposed mural is visible on the MAC website at middletownartcenter.org. Kaplan said the center has worked extensively on local murals and recently worked with the Konocti Unified School District to install the “Kindness Mural” at Burns Valley Elementary School.

According to the MAC website “The design includes student drawings and writing in response to the prompt, ‘What is kindness?’ 200 students participated in the creation of the mural alongside MAC artists.” Kaplan expanded on this by saying, “You can hire artists from MAC to do a mural with you, not just for you. To engage kids, to engage adults. We’ve worked at senior centers, all kinds of things. “

Kaplan has developed a knack for writing grants thanks to their current partners, which include the California Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Cultural and Historical Foundation, and the Upstate California Creative Corps. Kaplan MAC received seven grants from the California Council on the Arts, three from the National Endowment, one from Cal-Humanities, and another in what they are still waiting to see. Despite the grant writing success, Kaplan noted that they are always looking for sponsorships and community support as they continue to grow.

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