Category Archives: Arts Benicia

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.]

Benicia Vice-Mayor Scott credits community for fight to keep Benicia boards funded

Vice-Mayor Terry Scott honored the hours-long outpouring of community support for Benicia’s Arts & Culture Commission and Human Services Board with a special message

Benicia Vice-Mayor Terry Scott celebrated the many Benicians who wrote, called and showed up to support continued funding for the Arts & Culture Commission and Human Services Board. | Uncredited image.


Message from Benicia Vice-Mayor Terry Scott, June 7, 2023:

After almost four hours of passionate and insightful community testimony, City Council last night agreed to continue future funding for the Arts and Culture Commission and the Human Services Board.  

The extended community testimony and the City Council’s decision to continue funding the Arts and Culture Commission and the Human Services Board demonstrate the importance of community engagement in local governance.

I believe when individuals passionately express their thoughts and concerns, it helps shape decisions that directly impact the well-being and development of the city. 

The ongoing support and participation of Benicians  in the decision making process will undoubtedly continue to play a crucial role in the future of the city as we move into balancing our community priorities within the scope of our budget crisis.  

Thanks to all who participated. 

Terry Scott 
Vice-Mayor of Benicia


[Note from BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: This was a hard battle, fought brilliantly by dedicated community members, and supported by Benicia City Council’s ‘listening leadership.’ Although City staff initially recommended that the ACC and HSB budgets both be reduced to zero for fiscal years ’24/’25, City Council Members ultimately voted to reduce the ACC’s budget by only ~25 percent, and the HSB’s budget was reduced along roughly the same lines. I join Vice-Mayor Scott in thanking everyone who took the time to be heard, and I also thank Benicia’s Mayor Steve Young, Vice-Mayor Scott, and Council Members Kari Birdseye, Tom Campbell and Trevor Macenski for actively encouraging and accepting community feedback as they work to address Benicia’s budget crisis.]


Two local artists share why we must protect arts & culture in Benicia. Here’s how to add your voice to theirs

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash.
By Nathalie Christian, June 5, 2023

City Council will vote on the future of arts and culture in Benicia this Tuesday, June 6, at the City Council meeting starting at 6 pm.

In light of Benicia’s budget crisis, City staff have apparently recommended that Benicia’s Arts & Culture Commission’s already modest budget be reduced to zero.

Gutting the commission’s budget so drastically will negatively impact Benicia both materially and immaterially. There are so many essential arts, music, dance and theater programs in Benicia that, while supported by our community, also rely on City funding to fully serve residents and visitors. Such funding reaches highly respected organizations like Arts Benicia, Benicia Old Town Theatre Group, Benicia Performing Arts Foundation and Benicia Ballet through modest grants carefully considered by and disbursed through the Arts & Culture Commission.

This move by City staff arose from the need to address Benicia’s budget issues, but it is also short-sighted. The reduction and threatened total cessation of the wonderful programs, exhibits and performances Benicia has traditionally been able to offer its residents and visitors will certainly have a negative impact on Benicia’s appeal, leading to additional decreases in Benicia’s growth and revenue.

And that impact is nothing compared to the threatened cost to the mind, body and soul of our small but mighty city; the tangible and intangible things that make Benicia Benicia.

To protect Benicia’s future as both a home to and destination for the arts, performance and cultural exploration, your voice is needed, urgently. Please prepare to act today. Just a few minutes is all it will take to be heard.

Here is important information regarding the urgent timeline:

  • You have until 2 pm Tuesday, June 6 to email a public comment in support of the Arts & Culture Commission’s future.
  • You can also live-Zoom or live-call in to the City Council’s 6 pm meeting to share your comment.
  • Best yet, you can attend this City Council meeting in person to share your comment face-to-face with those who will be making this decision.

Looking for inspiration on what to write?

Two amazing local artists, Larnie Fox and Lisa Reinertson, were kind enough to share excerpts from their letters defending the Arts & Culture Commission’s budget. The letters make excellent cases for both the public and personal costs of gutting our budget. Please feel free to draw from these letters as inspiration when you write your own or prepare your public comment. (I have.)

Scroll all the way down to view their letters.

How to write and email a public comment

Members of the public may provide public comment via email to the City Clerk by email at Any comment submitted to the City Clerk should indicate to which item of the agenda the comment relates. (WE ARE ITEM 22.C – PROPOSED FISCAL YEARS 2024 & 2025 BUDGETS.)

– Comments received by 2:00 pm on the day of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council and posted on the City’s website.

– Comments received after 2:00 pm, but before the start time of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council but will not be posted on the City’s website.

In your email, put the item number in your subject line (e.g., “Public comment re. Item 22.C”).

In your email body, share why you support keeping arts and culture alive and well in Benicia. Scroll down to see sample letters.

How to view the meeting and/or make a live public comment

You can participate in the meeting in one of four ways: 

1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)

The public may view and participate (via computer or phone) link:
  • If prompted for a password, enter 449303.
  • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.
  • Dial in with phone:
    Before the start of the item you wish to comment on, call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.

        • 1 669 900 9128
        • 1 346 248 7799
        • 1 253 215 8782
        • 1 646 558 8656
        • 1 301 715 8592
        • 1 312 626 6799

•  Enter the meeting ID number: 885 0804 7557 (*please note this is an updated ID number*.)

Say the item you wish to speak on. (THE PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS ARE ITEM 22.C.)

Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Enter password: 449303

When prompted for a Participant ID, press #.

Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment.

Any member of the public who needs accommodations should email City Clerk Lisa Wolfe at, who will use her best efforts to provide as much accessibility as possible while also maintaining public safety. 

‘What should I say?’ Two amazing Benicia artists share their thoughts

Two local artists were kind enough to share excerpts from their letters defending the Arts & Culture Commission’s budget. Please feel free to draw from them as inspiration when you write your own or prepare your public comment.

Larnie Fox

Larnie Fox is a prominent local visual and sound artist and hyper-connector. He is the director of the Crank Ensemble, a group that performs on hand-cranked instruments built by Larnie. As the former director of Arts Benicia (among several leadership roles in arts organizations serving both youth and adults), he is well positioned to speak to the value of arts in education, expression and beyond. (His wife Bodil is also an amazing artist and connector, by the way!)

Dear Council Members, Mayor and Interim City Manager ~ 

The arts are not a frill! 

This past year, I taught Arts Benicia STEAM drawing classes for all the fifth graders at Joe Henderson Elementary School. […] Doing this work I saw again how very important it is for our kids to learn a few basic skills that enable them to express themselves non-verbally; to make their own decisions and take responsibility for them; to learn to think creatively; how much it empowers them, and how much pride they take in their work.

This program is a small slice of Arts Benicia’s children’s art outreach, which in turn is a small slice of what Arts Benicia does for our community. Add that to what Benicia Ballet, Benicia Literary Arts, Benicia Theatre Group, Benicia State Parks Association, and VOENA bring to the table and you can see that by spending $78,000, Benicia is getting a tremendous amount of “bang for the buck”. This is a drop in the bucket for the City, whose annual budget is roughly $54.5 million. 

A 2017 Americans for the Arts study conducted by the Arts and Culture Commision in Benicia concluded:

“Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 provides evidence that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a significant industry in the City of Benicia—one that generates $4.7 million in total economic activity. This spending—$2.9 million by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and an additional $1.8 million in event-related spending by their audiences—supports 149 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $2.7 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $414,000 in local and state government revenue. This economic impact study sends a strong signal that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in the City of Benicia’s economic well-being.”

Just by the economics alone, without considering all the cultural and human benefits, it is short-sighted to cut arts funding.

I appreciate that this is a difficult time for the City, but our local arts groups are already stretched thin. They do so much with so little.

I urge you to leave the Arts and Culture Commission’s very modest budget alone, and look for cuts elsewhere.


Larnie Fox

Lisa Reinertson

Lisa Reinertson is a Benicia artist whose figurative ceramic and bronze public sculptures have been stationed across the state and country, as well as on Benicia’s own waterfront (she’s the artist behind Neptune’s Daughter!). Lisa has drawn from her personal experience  as a struggling artist to explain why we must look beyond the bottom line to really understand what tremendous value the Arts & Culture Commission adds to Benicia through its modest but highly effective grant disbursements.

Dear Mayor, City Council and Staff,
I am writing in regards to the funding of the Arts in Benicia. I would like you to consider what makes this town a desirable place to live and to visit, and how we value the vibrant cultural aspects of our community.
Imagine Benicia without Arts Benicia, with its rich diversity of art exhibitions bringing both local and national artworks to our community. As a cultural hub where both adults and children can take classes that enrich their lives and stimulate ideas and imagination, Arts Benicia gives back so much more that the bottom line of dollars can measure.
The City gives just a small amount of support to the arts as it is. But that support multiplies in the hands of our dedicated arts leaders in this community; bringing choirs, theater, dance and visual arts into full blossom here.
If you want to look solely at the bottom line of dollars, I think it is easily argued that the small investment pays off in huge ways in money spent in our town which is known for having a vibrant art community and presence.
At one time in my life, as I was struggling as a single parent artist between teaching jobs and public commissions, I was advised by a frugal ( and indifferent) family member to move into an apartment and get a job at McDonald’s. Instead, I took out a loan on my house and invested back into myself to keep my studio going. I made it through that rough spot and was able to continue making public art and teach at college art departments and pay off the loan in short time.
Let’s not make short sighted foolish decisions that would snuff out our thriving culturally rich community. Let’s look at the long view and understand that the crucial value of the arts in our community may not be obvious to value in dollars alone, but it is a value that is so much greater than that; to keep Benicia a place we want to live and thrive in.
Thank you,
Lisa Reinertson

In Remembrance, Benicia Artist Mike Kendall

Via email from Arts Benicia, November 11, 2021

In Remembrance
Mike Kendall, 1947-2021

Artist, Friend, Mentor, Town Legend
Arts Benicia and its community grieves as one as we share the sad news that our dear friend, the “mayor of the Arsenal,” Mike Kendall passed away Tuesday night. Mike was an exceptional painter, sculptor and creator. More a creative force than just creator, he infused everything he did with a contagious, positive energy. Supportive, involved, and connected, he helped others make the connections they needed to be successful. Always there to lend a hand with anything and everything. Generous to Arts Benicia and to many other great creative causes in the community. Mike will be deeply missed by all.
He was a kind and dear man.
Photo by Michael Van Auken