I spoke to Floyd Dillon a few days ago to ask about his goals as president of the Bakersfield Art Association. He's taken over the reins from Kathy Schilling, who held the position for four years and spearheaded the BAA's move to downtown Bakersfield.
First off, though, let me remind you to stop by the association's Art Center Friday during the Arts District's First Friday events. BAA member Shirley Rowles is the featured artist, and the free reception includes refreshments and live music.
Now back to Dillon and what he hopes to achieve during his term of office.
"I want to improve the facility to get more people to come in," he said. "And I'd like to increase the amount of scholarships we give each year."
One improvement that's already in the planning stages concerns changing the lighting system in the Art Center. "Fluorescent light is not good for displaying art," he said. "We want to put in track lighting."
An electrician Dillon contacted has estimated the cost at about $3,500. Betty Younger gave the lighting fund a jump-start with a donation of $1,000. Since then, about $500 has been received from other donors and Dillon hopes the remainder will be supplied by a grant request the association has made.
Regarding scholarships, the new president hopes to broaden the field of recipients in addition to providing larger amounts.
"Last year we gave awards mostly to teachers of middle school art," he said. "That's fine but I would like to see more activity in assisting students at the college level."
Overall, he would like to increase the BAA's exposure locally.
"We want to provide a forum for local artists not only at the Art Center but at other venues about town and, of course, we are doing that now," he said. "We want to encourage art in the commnity -- it's basically for the beautification of Bakersfield."
Dillon, a retired Air Force officer, took up oil painting in 1985 when his youngest child entered college. He and his wife moved to Bakersfield in 2005 from Albuquerque, N.M., but have lived in many different countries throughout his career.
"I was born in Hawaii (because) my father was in the Navy," he said. "Then when I was in the service we moved all over -- Southeast Asia, Germany, Japan. My family had to put up with me."
Jim Bates, an artist whose work has appeared in The Californian's Eye Gallery, will be on hand to meet visitors Friday evening at Dagny's. He plans to exhibit a selection of framed pen and ink drawings and several new paintings.
Trains are a favorite subject for the artist, along with Bakersfield landmarks. Like many local artists, he's also inspired by the Kern River.
Currently, he's working on a series that will showcase scenes of the river on its course from high in the Sierra to Gordon's Ferry near Hart Park.
In April of this year, however, he spent time in southern France and will probably display one or two pieces he did there.
One of these, titled "The Bridge of Langlois," is Bates' finely detailed drawing of a scene painted by Van Gogh when the famous artist was living in Arles.
A member of the Bakersfield Art Association, Bates retired as superintendent of the Lamont School District in 2006 after 34 years as an educator. Early in his career he taught art at Mountain View Middle School.
A reception at The Empty Space on Saturday will mark the opening of Jen Raven's exhibit of unusual and distinctive abstract art.
She refers to the small skull-like images in her paintings as "Mourners."
These eerie figures -- Raven calls them characters -- pop out of the eyes of a larger skull, which, in turn, springs from a replica of a food take-out carton. I was intrigued with similar examples when her work was shown at The Foundry last year.
"I created the Mourners to express sorrow, pain or grieving at its most primal, at its most visceral level," she says.
"They are meant to be childlike in their execution in order to bring the viewer right to the heart of the emotions I hope to express."
Originally this series was done in crayon on paper but Raven has created several new acrylic paintings for the current exhibit. Some carry a message in the upper-right corner, such as "You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger."
Sounds like good advice to me.
Jazz violinist Patrick Contreras of Fresno will join Jay Smith and his trio next Wednesday at the Padre Hotel's Prairie Fire lounge.
"It should be an energetic show," said Smith, who plays piano, keyboard and synthesizer. "Patrick and I played a lot together in Fresno -- this is almost like a reunion."
Smith, 27, a graduate of Fresno City College, now makes his home in Bakersfield.
His trio includes Fernando Montoya on acoustic and electric bass, and drummer Jonathan Weinmann.
He describes his style of music as progressive although he does do a few jazz standards.
"I'm more of the Miles Davis school -- he said you should change every five years," Smith said.
"I'm not like Wynton Marsalas who thinks you should put (jazz) on a pedestal and never change it."
A composer as well as a performer, Smith expects to release a new album in October. Titled "Unashamed Portrayal," it's made up of music he's written in the past as well as some new material.
It includes his full band, which is made up of Grammy-nominated guitarist Andre Bush as well as Montoya, Weinmann, Chris Nguyen, Mark Manda, Armando Joe Vazquez, Jay Jay Hicks and Nunzio Urbina.
Smith's upcoming gig at the Padre is a switch from his usual Wednesday night venue at La Corusse Rouge.
He also teaches at the White Lane restaurant from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and is a lead instructor in the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop.