With water flowing in the riverbed, it’s not hard to imagine a thriving Kern River through the city. For First Friday, Bring Back the Kern has partnered with the Bakersfield Art Association for a group show to raise awareness about the endangered lower Kern River’s need to always flow.
The Bakersfield Art Association has joined forces with Bring Back the Kern, harnessing the transformative power of art to raise awareness about the endangered lower Kern River’s need to always flow, not just in extraordinarily wet years.
Now through the end of April, the BAA Art Center will feature the group show focused on the Kern River, whose beauty has inspired generations of local artists.
“The April group show focuses on the beauty and versatility of the Kern River and how it is enjoyed,” said Kay Hall, BAA coordinator for the art show. “We have a combination of mediums and styles in the show that will be displayed at the gallery all during the month of April. All art will be for sale to benefit our artists and our nonprofit gallery.”
Featured artists in the group show include Hall, Mark Engelien, Phyllis Oliver, Stella Mullins, Iva Fendrick, Jim Bates, Charlotte White, Gary Knerr and Girard Fisher.
This is the latest effort by Bring Back the Kern to use art to connect with the community. In February 2021, the group commissioned Andres Amador, a Northern California-based artist known for large-scale temporary earthscapes, to create the art installation “Flow” through a portion of dry riverbed near Beach Park. Later that year, Bring Back the Kern tapped author Teresa Adamo and illustrator Jennifer Williams Cordova to create “The Mighty Kern River,” a children’s book about the cause.
It also partnered with local musicians for a tribute to Merle Haggard with cover recordings of his final song, “Kern River Blues.” Artists included Monty Byrom, Danny Sal, Charlie Zanne Band, Joey Kuntz, Crimson Skye, The Appletons, Vince Galindo and more.
“We need a river that flows through the heart of Bakersfield, nourishing the community and breathing life into its surroundings,” Tim McNeely, spokesperson for Bring Back the Kern, said in a news release. “Bringing Back the Kern is not just about putting water in the river; it’s about restoring our community’s identity, improving quality of life, and benefiting the local economy. We have partnered with numerous artists to powerfully tell the story and evoke change.”
“Rivers across California have been brought back to life after being dried up,” added Kelly Damian. “Determined Kern County residents continue to speak out, both in words and through art on behalf of the Kern River. Artists are the creative pulse of our community and their work on this important issue helps drive the conversation forward.”
A reception for the artists will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at the art center, 1607 19th St. Beverages from Jin Sushi will be provided.
Representatives from Bring Back the Kern will be available to answer questions about their organization.
There will also be a virtual show on the Bakersfield Art Association’s website (bakersfieldartassociation.org), Facebook (facebook.com/BAAartists) and Instagram (@bakersfieldartassociation) pages.
Along with taking part in the Kern River group show, artist Jim Bates will have a solo show on display this month at Dagny’s Coffee Co. (1600 20th Street) for the month of May.
“A Walk Through Town” features ink drawings that reflect his interest in architecture with numerous examples around Bakersfield. He enjoys trying to represent three-dimensional objects in two dimensions with just pen and ink.
After completing military service, Bates returned to Fresno State where he pursued his desire to become an art teacher, according to the BAA newsletter. After earning his BA and teaching credential, Bates taught art for nine years before becoming a school administrator. Drawing and painting has always been a passion for Bates. All through college, career, and retirement, he has always continued to draw and paint.
Bates’ work is on display at Dagny’s, 1600 20th St.
Admission is free to view the four exhibitions at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
Visitors can enjoy “Rotem Reshef: Vista,” an immersive presentation of scrolls and stretched canvases, imprinted with native flowers, trees and shrubs, meant to evoke the view from the Panorama Bluffs.
Also on display are “Of Rope and Chain Her Bones Are Made,” a unique collection from nine Los Angeles-based female artists featuring works in textiles, oil paints, cast bronze, porcelain and other materials; “Dynamic, Surreal, Vibrant: Marion Osborn Cunningham,” highlighting the work of the museum’s namesake, and “Color and Abstraction: Select Works From BMoA’s Permanent Collection.”
The museum (1930 R St.) is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Moderngigi Gallery (900 18th St.) will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. with work for sale from local artists and vendors.
Along with the shows, First Friday also brings the ArtWalk, put on by the Arts Council of Kern along 19th and Eye streets,
Relaunched in December, the event continues to add vendors including painters, woodworkers, jewelry makers and more.
Music will be provided by Jesse Moreno and 4U&I at the event that will run from 5 to 9 p.m.
Local artists and artisans interested in taking part can contact the council at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 661-324-9000.