Stephen Golub: Great Stuff at Arts Benicia

By Stephen Golub, originally published in the Benicia Herald on April 21, 2024. The images in this post were added by BenIndy. 

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land.

One of the many things that makes Benicia so special is its community of artists, many of whom settled here due to our town’s relative affordability and beautiful setting. One leading aspect of that community is Arts Benicia, a nonprofit whose excellent website (  sums up its mission nicely: “…to stimulate, educate, and nurture cultural life in Benicia primarily through the visual arts. This community based non-profit organization provides exhibitions, educational programs, and classes that support artists and engage the broader community.”

Before going further, I’ll say that I’ve never been particularly art-oriented. (I’ll also say that I’m not proud to say that.) With the exception of especially outlandish or idiosyncratic displays such as Van Gogh or holographic exhibitions, I always dismissed art museums as just featuring “stuff on walls.” I’d generally prefer to go for a hike, go for a drink, watch the Warriors, whatever.

But Arts Benicia has changed my mind. Lots of that stuff on its walls is striking and thought-provoking. Even more importantly, it’s about far more than what’s on walls. The organization offers classes, opportunities and activities to Benicia’s kids, adults and visitors. Conservation, nature, gender, justice and other themes run through much of what it shows and does.

Clicking this image will redirect you to the Arts Benicia website.

Arts Benicia is not just an organization. We can also think of it as a community that embraces not just artists from Benicia and beyond, but many of us to the extent that we engage in its activities or benefit from the visitors it helps bring to our lovely town.

Still, the heart and physical hub of the group is the stately, historic, 6,000-foot Commanding Officer’s Quarters, located at 1 Commandant’s Lane, which hosts the organization’s gallery, classes and project space. There’s usually a free exhibition on display there, from 1-5 pm on Thursdays through Sundays.

My recent favorite exhibitions have been those featuring diverse depictions of water-oriented themes and the works of our amazingly talented Benicia artists. There will be more such shows along those specific  lines, along with numerous other kinds of exhibitions, in the months and years to come. Each show is a highly competitive affair, with artists from all over the Bay Area and the country submitting applications for inclusion.

The Commanding Officer’s Quarters is the home of Arts Benicia, but the fun doesn’t stop there. |

The Commanding Officer’s Quarters displays are just the tip of the contributions that Arts Benicia and Benicia’s artists make to the community. For example, from 10 am-5 pm on the weekend of May 4 and 5, it will join Benicia’s downtown galleries and about 50 Bay Area artists opening their studio doors for the Benicia Art Weekend. In addition to the art itself, the event offers a chance to discuss the artists’ work with them.

Arts Benicia regularly holds hands-on educational programs (some for fees, some free) for children, teenagers, young adults and adults of all ages For instance, this June it’s offering two five-day EcoArt Camps for kids entering third through sixth grades “who like to build, sculpt, paint, draw, and collage” to help them gain “awareness of environmental sustainability, natural resources, and the potential of re-use.”

There is no shortage of other educational and training opportunities. The organization partners with the Benicia Unified School District to bring visiting artists to the District’s four elementary schools for classes ranging from drawing to tinkering. It recently completed an “Intro to Cartooning” course for kids. There’s a Young Printmakers Program for persons 18-25 with an interest in skills that can pertain to such fields as graphic design. And there are a plethora of other classes and activities.

EcoArt Camp 2024 is open for applications, click the image to be redirected to the Arts Benicia page to learn more. | Image from

Check out its website for more on any of this and on so much more.

A key way to take advantage of all that Arts Benicia has to offer is to become a member, with reduced rates for students and families. Membership brings discounts on various classes and other activities, as well as free admission to certain events: for example, the organization’s lecture series and receptions marking the openings of exhibitions. (I attended a great lecture last year, by two very knowledgeable Benicia-based experts, on the growing interaction between artificial intelligence and art.)

Its other forms of fund-raising also provide chances for loads of fun. In October, for instance, there will be a champagne-and-chocolate event; in December, one featuring a few kinds of fine, easily sip-able spirits. Held at the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, both proved very popular and sold out well in advance last year.

So check out Arts Benicia if you can. It offers lots of great stuff, both on walls and otherwise.

[Full disclosure: My wife sits on Arts Benicia’s Board. She did not suggest or lobby for this column at all.]