The real story of the Sonomawood sign
Given the ill will some people in Sonoma have expressed about the temporary Sonomawood sign planned for the Plaza horseshoe, I think it might be helpful if the Sonoma International Film Festival gave some background about the sign and why we at the film festival see it as a key part of our mission.
Truth be told, the film festival had nothing to do with the sign and I doubt if it has brought in $1 in additional ticket sales.
The sign was conceived by Walt Williams, an algebra, biology and art teacher at Creekside High School, as a project for his art class. “That project really connects the kids and it makes them feel connected to the community,” Walt recently told me.
Creekside is an alternative high school for kids who are having a tough time – teen moms, truancy issues, difficult home environment.
We at the film festival look at the Sonomawood sign as the actualization of a project by kids who otherwise don’t get much chance to see their ideas come to life. It demonstrates to them that they can work with the community to express themselves and don’t have to resort to spray paint on a wall.
Walt likened the sign to the work of the artist Christo, whose temporary public art installations always elicit a wide variety of public response.
“Art has an effect on you. It is something you remember,” Walt concluded. The Sonomawood sign certainly seems to have accomplished that. The sign was never meant as an invitation to real estate developers or to turn Sonoma into Hollywood.
And, it certainly was not meant to mock our wonderful town. It is simply the expression of an idea of a group of local high school students and their art teacher.
Helping kids express their ideas is fundamental to the mission of the film festival. Besides the sign, the film festival founded the Media Arts Program at Sonoma Valley High School and has directed more than $400,000 to that program for more than 10 years. As they do every year, student films will be playing Thursday and Sunday mornings during this year’s festival at the Sebastiani Theatre.
So, to those of you who look upon the sign as another example of Sonoma’s descent into perdition, we beg your indulgence for just five days this April. After all, it is our children’s artwork, so let’s cherish it.
I would like to conclude by extending to everyone an invitation to this year’s film festival – April 10-14 – where you will be able to see more than 90 features, documentaries and shorts, the vast majority of which have nothing to do with Hollywood.
But, they are all great stories worth telling.
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Skip Olinger is chief operating officer and a board member of the Sonoma International Film Festival.