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A Storehouse of Creativity: Petaluma Arts Center

A former train storage and repair building in Petaluma is now a thriving home for the arts in Sonoma County.

Housed in the historic Railroad Station freight building, next to the Petaluma Visitors Center, the Petaluma Arts Center hosts art exhibits, concerts, cultural performances, art classes for people of all ages, literary and film lectures, and community events.

"This is a really great space that gets used for many different things," said Val Richman, the center's executive director. "There's always something to see or do."

The 4,500-square-foot facility presents six to seven exhibits during the year, each one on display for four to seven weeks. One end of the building includes classrooms and a pottery area with a kiln. The center is also available for rent for private events.

In the gallery area, movable wall modules allow the space to be redesigned for each event. There's a youth show each March, a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) display in October and November, and a members' show each December to January. An exhibition committee reviews proposals, and chooses the other shows.

"We have an interesting variety of high-quality exhibitions year round," Richman says.

Recent shows included an innovative display of photographs taken with smart phones or tablets, and a collage show that included both traditional and digital methods.

The collage show was held collaboratively with the Ice House Gallery (405 E. D St., Petaluma, 707-778-2238), located across the street in the historic Burdell building, with the show displayed in both venues. Planning is under way for another joint exhibit.

The Petaluma Arts Center grew out of the grassroots Petaluma Arts Council, founded in 1998 with a goal of acknowledging and celebrating local artists and their contributions. The council opened the arts center 10 years later, in September 2008.

Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma, 707-762-5600, open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Monday; closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and holidays.

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.