The Beat Goes On: Peace, Love, and Rock & Roll
Take a magical mystery tour of another era of peace, love and rock & roll at exhibit The Beat Goes On, currently on view at the History Museum of Sonoma County. This exhibit recounts the history and legacy of the 1960s-counterculture era in the North Bay through music, posters, photographs, and other memorabilia.
While much of the focus on hippies, acid rock, and rebellion was in San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury district, a considerable amount spilled north to Marin and Sonoma Counties. Here the young people found places to live and set up studios for building custom guitars, and to experiment with early electronic recording.
One of the most palpable expressions of the general tenor of the times was through music. During the late 1960s, said curator, Eric Stanley, “Music became part of the national conversation about youth, free love, drugs, and rebellion.” In turn the music events engendered posters, light shows, and clothing styles.
In this exhibition, the turmoil of anti-war protests, the free speech movement, civil rights, and the generation gap is predominantly told through posters and handbills designed to promote music events. These posters chronicled many major musical and countercultural milestones. Beginning with handbills from 1950s Beat-era establishments, the influences are traced through the end of the 1960s.
Posters for events at the Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom, in San Francisco, were designed by a now legendary team of artists known as the “San Francisco Five.” The group included Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, and Wes Wilson.
The style was loosely influenced by 19th-century Art Nouveau imagery and design, with a distinctive psychedelic spin. The exhibit opens with a large-format copy of the Skeleton and Roses poster originally created in 1966 by Mouse and Kelley for a Grateful Dead performance at the Avalon Ballroom. A Sonoma County resident, Mouse’s art is represented by a number of other posters as well.
Another important component of the counterculture lifestyle was the sprouting of communes in the North Bay where land was plentiful. During the 1960s numerous communes emerged reflecting a desire to find an alternative way of living that was outside the mainstream. Some of these, including Morningstar Ranch, in Sonoma County, and the Olompali compound in Marin, are commemorated with a small exhibit of photographs, stories, and artifacts.
This summer will be the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco. The legacy that began decades ago remains present today in Sonoma County, where the beat continues through the people, places, music, and lifestyles.
The exhibition will be on view through April 2, 2017 at the History Museum of Sonoma County.
Find more information on the Sonoma County Arts and Culture scene.