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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Occidental News March 2010

While there’s lots of exciting news this month, I’m sorry to open on a sad note, and with a plea for assistance. Occidentalite Morgan Caulfield died unexpectedly from cancer on February 22, just twelve hours after going to the emergency room with stomach pain. I’ve heard she was a unique artist and photographer, whose great compassion for animals means she left behind a beautiful red heeler named Jasper, and his cat Simon, who need a permanent home. I can forward photos upon request.

Occidental Center for the Arts
The beloved Grande Dame of Occidental, Doris Murphy, will turn 100 years old on March 11. Doris, one of the Occidental Center for the Arts’ original founders and driving force, first envisioned an arts center about 15 years ago when a member of the Occidental Choir mentioned the lack of an appropriate place to perform. She formed a committee and began to search for a venue. Land owned by the county proved to be fraught with difficulties; eventually, developer Orrin Thiessen stepped forward and donated the old Harmony School multi-purpose room/cafeteria, and the project really took flight.

The annual Occidental Fool’s Parade, long the project of local musician Kate Price, is now being lead-sponsored by the OCA. The Parade will be Saturday, April 3, starting at 1 p.m. at the Community Center, ambling through downtown Occidental, and finishing back at the Center. Make sure to bring your ‘inner fool’, your clown face, and your motley attire!

After the parade, the OCA will host an "Acoustical Mystery Tour" open house to celebrate progress on Phase II of the renovation efforts. Local musicians, singers, and writers can try out the acoustics of the refurbished Center. If you are interested in participating, contact, who will fit in as many different kinds of presentations as possible. Currently, there are kids’ tables, stand up acts, clowns, and readings, to name but a few.

Renovation has been spearheaded by Patrick Fanning and Steve Fowler, the current President, who attended an informational meeting held at the Harmony site in November 2004. "Next thing I knew my name was on the permits and I was President of the Board!" quips Steve.

"Our corps of volunteers is bedrock solid," he continues. He and Patrick have inspired sculptors to swing hammers, painters to hang dry wall, poets to write press releases, and a committed group to take on the duties of serving on a board of directors and run hard working committees. Since last May, the Center has been taken apart and put back together by this very dedicated group.

The entire Occidental community is integral to the effort, with local volunteers supplying what Steve terms ‘human capital,’ while the restaurants in town have been providing food, and others are transporting the food and cheerleading! Still others hold fund-raisers to pay for supplies and permits.

"We really are creating a first class center that will produce 100 events a year in a small Sonoma County village. And we are doing it on time and under budget." Steve has a deeply-rooted connection to this project: three of his children attended school on site, and he belonged to the Occidental Choir for 25 years.

Phase III (completion), includes a new 493 square foot flexible stage with wheelchair lift, 700 square feet of new backstage area, new raked seating for better sight lines, solar panels on the roof, and remodeling the art gallery. On the west side of the auditorium there will be a new kitchen, restrooms, storage, and amphitheater stage.

Occidental Community Center
The Occidental Community Center will host Friday Community Markets in the auditorium and activity room, March 19 through May 28, from 4-7 p.m.; outdoor space will be available for enclosed concessionaires. Local farms, food vendors, and artisans can purchase space for $15/week. The Market will only be open to retailers of locally produced goods. Call 707.874.1938 or

Reminder: The OCC is a local community resource at the corner of Bohemian Highway and Graton Road. It has a licensed commercial kitchen and disabled accessible bathrooms. It is available for community events.

Please keep sending me input on local happenings so I have news to write about. I received a couple complaints recently that I’m not covering enough about Occidental, but I can’t do that effectively without your input. We’re a monthly paper with deadlines the last week of the month for the next month’s issue—so please send accordingly. Thanks. Stay tuned soon for the results of my quest to buy local, humanely-raised poultry. Thanks!