Entrance to the Benicia Historical Museum

Learn Fun Facts About Benicia

There is always something to learn if you visit a local history museum. Benicia’s Historical Museum held a few more surprises and the city has an amazing list of ‘firsts’.

Camel figures

The first thing that you will notice when entering the beautiful sandstone building is the abundance of camel figurines. In fact the museum is housed in the camel barn. As we learned from the museum’s education director, who led us into the building, this building itself was never used for the camels. Nonetheless, the first and only camel corps, from 1856 to 1866, when the US army ran a camel experiment, were housed nearby. These animals were perfectly suited for the rough climate of the West, but due to political quarrels were auctioned off in Benicia. 

A list of Benicia's first accomplishmentsAnd that is just the beginning of fun facts. Benicia’s firsts include the first town to disclose the discovery of gold (1848), first hotel in Solano County (1849), the first public school and the first public hospital in California (1849), the first Masonic hall in CA (1849) and the first girls’ school in California (1852). Notable Benician’s include the first American heavyweight boxing champion, John Heenan (1860) and Jack London, who lived in the town from 1892 to 1895.

Tule hut exhibit at the Benicia Historical MuseumThe museum exhibits also acknowledge the Patwin, Solano county indigenous people’s history, the shipyards, and the military arsenal which was used to supply several US wars, e.g. the Civil War. A new Gold Rush exhibit is the latest addition to the educational experience.

The Benicia Historical Museum is located at ​​2060 Camel Rd, in Benicia. Opening hours for a self-guided tour are Wednesday to Fridays 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday to Sundays 1 to 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 children, and free for active military. 

On March 24th, 2023 you can join the museum for the first annual trivia night. A $30 per person fun 1920s theme party. Or enjoy a band and bar at First Fridays At The Museum, every first Friday of the month, admission varies.

What is your favorite Benician fun fact?

Entrance of the Kaleid Gallery

Browse Some Art, Kaleid Gallery in San Jose

Inside the Kaleid Gallery in San JoseThe Kaleid Gallery in San Jose’s SoFA district houses over 60 fine artists and designers in their 4,000 square foot retail space. Every First Friday, except in January and July, they feature a solo exhibit by a resident artist. The artist’s reception is from 5 pm – 9 pm.

View inside the Kaleid Gallery in San JoseIf you want some unique gift you should check them out. All art is for sale and you can take it with you at the time of purchase. There are not only paintings, but sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry, to name a few. I also enjoyed meeting some of the artists while I visited.

Space Palette Pro at the Kaleid GalleryThe most curious piece, and a fun thing to play with, is the Space Palette Pro. A visual music instrument that looks like a mix between an old jukebox and a homemade arcade video game console. Pick a theme from the psychedelic sounding menu and start playing sounds with your fingers on the touchscreen. Sample menu themes are: Blue Purple Cartoon Clouds, Kaleidoscopes Forever, and Swimming in Salmon Blue. I don’t think this is for sale, but instructions on how to build your own are given.  

KALEID Gallery is located at 320 S. 1st Street, in downtown San Jose.

Opening hours are Thursdays to Fridays 12 pm – 7 pm, Saturdays 12 pm – 5 pm

And for First Fridays ArtWalk SJ 5 pm – 9 pm.

What’s your favorite art gallery in San Jose?

Description of the exhibit Pertencia: To Belong with views of paintings from Héctor Muñoz-Guzmán

Get a Sense of Belonging, Pertenecer at MACLA, San Jose

Gallery view of the exhibit Pertenecer at MACLAPertenecer: To Belong is the current exhibit at MACLA – Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana in San Jose’s SoFA district. Until March 19th, 2023 you can experience the cultural expression of otherness and belonging from six LatinX Bay Area artists: Pilar Agüero-Esparza, Rayos Magos, Kristina Micotti, Héctor Muñoz-Guzmán, Vanessa Wallace-Gonzales, and Jennifer White-Johnson. Gallery view of the exhibit Pertenecer at MACLA

You can feel the struggle to belong without losing yourself and your culture in their works. With interesting choices of materials, like aluminum alloy, leather and burlap, some of the artists play with traditional mediums to make something their own. Others use vibrant colors and imagery to evoke a cultural edge. 

On Saturday January 14th you can attend a special artists talk from noon to 1:30 pm, with Pilar Agüero-Esparza, Rayos Magos, and Héctor Muñoz-Guzmán. This is a free event, but tickets are required. You can sign up for tickets on their website. Outside the MACLA gallery

The gallery at MACLA is always free, but they do have a box for donations. $5 is the suggested donation amount. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday 12-7pm, and Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm. 

Have you been to a MACLA exhibit?

While you are in the area I suggest you stop by the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art on the same block.

Close up on some tropical butterflies

Admire Butterfly Art at the Bohart Museum, Davis

Tropical butterflies arranged in a spiral.I have to admit I’m not a big fan of insects; only butterflies make me smile. The Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus must have known the appeal of butterflies because it uses the California dogface butterfly as its logo. This museum holds the 7th largest collection of insects in North America and the 3rd largest university collection. If you are a fan of creepy critters I saw them advertise an insect zoo. I profess I did not pursue it. 112 birdwing butterflies arranged as a butterfly

On my visit I was most enchanted with the butterfly artwork. In the Spiral Galaxy of Butterflies Francisco Basso and Brittany L. Kohler arranged tropical butterflies in a swirl and floral patterns. These butterflies are from a donation that did not include collection data and therefore can’t be used for research purposes. As a fun scavenger fact, they also added a fly. Can you find it?

While the first artwork by Basso and Kohler has multiple species, the second, Birdwing Butterfly, is composed of 112 birdwing butterflies into a nymphalid. These were also donated without collection data.  

Butterfly wings painted on two pillarsA sculpture of a tardigradeFor your instagramable moment you can pose as a butterfly between two adjacent pillars with painted wings or ride on a sculpture of a Tardigrade at the entrance to the museum.

The Bohart Museum of Entomology is located at 455 Crocker Lane in Davis. Opening hours are Monday-Thursday: 9:00 am – noon and 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Admission is free. Or you can tour them virtually here

Are you an insect fan?

Visit the Secret Redwood Grove, Jack Hume Grove, Vacaville

Visit the Secret Redwood Grove, Jack Hume Grove, Vacaville

A sign that reads Jack Hume GroveIf you are looking for inspiration for a short hike near Vacaville to start the New Year, I can recommend the Jack Hume Grove as a  very attractive destination. A part of Lagoon Valley Park, the Jack Hume Grove, is surprisingly quiet and calm. We walked by some disc golfers to reach the grove. The road that goes by it is being newly paved. 

The grove is a tribute to Jack Hume, a conservative philanthropist and co-founder of Basic American Foods. He was best known as the world’s largest producer of dried onion and garlic. 

A path among redwood treesThe grove itself is not large but conveys the calmness one feels among redwoods. A few nicely constructed walkways give you a bit of an elevation change. The augmented waterwise plants on the rim of the grove and the dried up stream are interesting additions.

Overall this is more of a picnic destination than a workout place. Unless you decide to venture out of the grove and enjoy the mountainous paths or spend some time along the lagoon.

Lagoon Valley Park is located at 1 Peña Adobe Rd, Vacaville, near the I-80 exit of Peña Adobe Rd. Parking is $5 per day with options for a 6 month or year pass. You can use the Park Mobile app or use one of two pay stations, which accept exact cash or credit card payment. 

There is currently construction on the way to improve the park. Please check the city’s website for updates.  Jack Hume Grove has many paths and some stairs

If you are interested in seeing larger redwoods I highly recommend the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton.

Where will you hike on your First Day Hikes?

 

Roberta Monte James' creation called Seeker

Expand Your View on Textile Art, Woodland

Last week’s post about quilts showed traditional textile art in Woodland’s Gallery 625. But Yolo Arts also has an exhibit about  contemporary fiber art titled: Off the Grid at the Barn Gallery in Woodland. 

Zen Du's Biopoiesis at the Barn GalleryHere textiles are reconstructed, reshaped, and redefined with methods like stitching, weaving, and embroidery. The 19 artists showcase the contemporary usage of textile art. 

One of the artists, Zen Du’s Biopoiesis is a great example of the innovative approach. She shows us felt objects that remind the viewer of underwater creatures. Another object I liked a lot is Roberta Monte James’ Seeker, an asymmetric quilt which invites the viewer to follow new lines and shapes.

Traditional quilts and a house dress as seen at the Gibson HouseAs a contrast to the exhibit at the Barn you will also be invited to view Stitched Together: Quilts from the Yolo County Historical Collection at the Gibson House next door. 

The Barn Gallery and the Gibson House are located at 512 Gibson Rd in Woodland are open Wednesdays and Thursdays 2:30 to 5 pm, and selected Saturdays. 

Off the Grid will be shown until February 11th, 2023 and Stitched Together until February 3rd, 2023. Admissions to both exhibits are free.

Expressions in Cloth exhibit at Gallery 625, Woodland, CA.

Examine Expressions in Cloth, Quilt Art in Woodland

I zoomed in on a quilt to show different stich patternsQuilting is such a beautiful tradition and a unique way to express yourself. The canvas of multiple swatches of cloth comes to life with a vision; stitches shape patterns for our eyes to follow. 

Until January 31st, 2023 you can view precious examples of quilts at Gallery 625, in Woodland, titled: Expressions in Cloth. The quilting artists are: Bernadette Behrends, Kathy Donaldson, Lana Hanney, Carole Pirruccello, Jeanne Powell, Margo Shroeder, and Sherry Werum. All artists are members of the Flying Needles Quilt Guild in Yolo County. 

Sherry Werum’s ‘The First Ferris Wheel 1893 Columbian Exposition Chicago Worlds Fair'Sherry Werum’s ‘The First Ferris Wheel 1893 Columbian Exposition Chicago Worlds Fair” was my personal favorite. It pops out with bright pink and blue rounds of ferris wheel expressions. 

Gallery 625The gallery place itself is unusual. Gallery 625 is in the Erwin Meier Administration Building, a place where people, among other things, come to pay their property taxes. But don’t be put off by the surroundings, the quilts are first class and well-worth your time to admire.

A Christmas ornament of Betsie, on of the dogs you can donate to.If quilting helps you think of blankets, and you happen to have some to give away, you are welcome to leave donations for Friends of Yolo County Animal Services at the bins near the East entrance. Or you can pick up one of the donation requests by a specific pet from the Christmas tree.

Gallery 625 is located at 625 Court Street, (Erwin Meier Admin Building) in Woodland. Expressions in Cloth is open Monday – Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, until January 31st, 2023. Admission is free. 

Other places to enjoy quilts in the Bay Area are Bay Quilts in Richmond and the Quilt and Textile Museum in San Jose.

Purchase Plants at Cactus Jungle, Berkeley

Purchase Plants at Cactus Jungle, Berkeley

Plant related gift items at Cactus Jungle in Berkeley.If you are planning to go see the Berkeley Potters Guild please consider stopping by Cactus Jungle afterwards. They have a great selection of not only cactus, but succulents, carnivorous plants, airplants, and perennials. Plus interesting pots and other plant related gift items, like living ornaments. 

Micah, the red foot tortoiseIt was fun to discover Micah, the red foot tortoise. She is not for sale, but feels right at home. If you have little kids they might enjoy learning about Micah. I was told the Marin Cactus Jungle has baby tortoises!

Cactus Jungle in Berkeley is located one block from the Berkeley Potters Guild at 1509 4th Street. They are open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 am to 5 pm. From December 25th to Jan 2nd they are on their Winter Break.

Have you gathered all your gifts yet? carnivorous plants

For another experience while plant shopping I suggest going to Shelldance Orchid Gardens in Pacifica. 

*I’m not affiliated with Cactus Jungle (or anyone else). 

 

Pottery by Kimi Masui

Gift some Pottery, Berkeley Potters Guild

Pottery by Margarete Grisz DowThe Berkeley Potters Guild welcomes visitors to their 51st anniversary Holiday Open Studio. This year’s event is under the motto: Vibe of color. Every Saturday and Sunday of December from 11 am to 5 pm and the whole week of the 17th till the 24th you can shop handmade pottery. 17 artists will show off their work and celebrate the season with live music.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Potters Guild. Even during the pandemic they organized a splendid event, with much social distancing. Nevertheless you could also chat with the artists and learn their motivation and love for the craft. Since we are now going into the 3rd year of the pandemic they still require you to wear masks at all times. A kiln at the Berkeley Potters Guild

From bowls and vases to little magnets, tiles, and jewelry the selection is holding a gift for everyone on your list. The gallery shows off the highest priced pieces, so you are also treated to an arts and craft exhibit. I like the old kiln and the building itself with its nooks and history.

It was quite revealing last year when an artist told us she thought one of her creations was stolen, and someone had to tell her that it just got sold. Yes, you can be quite attached to your work. If you give any of these creations you know you have a unique work of art.  

Berkeley Potters Guild is open from 11 am to 5 pm every Saturday and Sunday of December and the whole week from the 17th to the 24th, closing the 24th at 2 pm. The gallery at the Berkeley Potters Guild

Admission is free. There is no parking lot, but the street parking was relatively easy.

Are you giving unique gifts this season? 

(Images are from last years open studio at the Berkeley Potters Guild)

Entrance to the UC Bicycle Hall of Fame, Davis

Commemorate Bike Riders, U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, Davis

The spokes of a high wheel with a picture of a high wheel in the backgroundSince Davis is the bike capital of the US it makes sense that they host the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

The non profit charges $5 admission. If you believe that this is just for bike enthusiasts that religiously follow all the main races you might be as surprised as I was to find out it is not. 

On the lower level is an exhibit on the history of bikes. I loved the inventiveness of the bike; from the tall wheels with little wheels in the back to the modern race bike, people tried all sorts of ways to upgrade their wheels. The photographs of child messengers by Lewis Hines became the face of the child labor reform movement.  

A display for Mayor Taylor at the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in DavisThe upper level hosts the Hall of Fame. You won’t find America’s most known cyclist, Lance Armstrong. Due to his admittance of drug use he won’t be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The cyclists they are highlighting have fascinating stories, like Mayor Taylor, the world’s first black superstar, or five-time national champion Nancy Burghart.

The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is only open Wednesdays from 4 pm – 6 pm and Saturdays from 10 am – 2 pm. It is right next to the Farmers Market, so a perfect combination on a Saturday while exploring Davis. A six person tandem at the UC Bicycle Hall of Fame, Davis

Do you have a favorite cyclist?

The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is located on 303 3rd St in downtown Davis. Hours are Wednesday from 4 pm – 6 pm and Saturdays from 10 am – 2 pm. General admission is $5, seniors and students pay $3.