By Camille Gavin
Long before the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, the place we now call Weedpatch was an important landmark.
It was common in the 1890s for farmers and land agents who conducted business in and around this fertile area southeast of Bakersfield to say, “I’ll meet you at the weed patch.” The abundant growth of native plants on this particular plot of ground made it easy to recognize.
So, knowing this, I don’t find it surprising that three innovative artists from England saw this intersection as a good setting for a contemporary public art project they titled “Weedpatch: A Good Place to Start.”
An extensive print, audio and photographic exhibit of their project can be seen and heard at the Arts Council of Kern. The gallery is set up like a family living room with easy chairs to sit in as you listen to the recordings that emanate from a CD player that looks like an old-time radio.
David Nigel Lloyd, assistant director of the Arts Council, was the curator for the installation. It details the work of the visiting artists — Heather Connelly, Jo Dacombe and Jayne Murray — collectively known as CoLab, a group affiliated with the Arts Council of England.
Taken as a whole, “Weedpatch” is a panorama of storytelling by individuals who came to the area in search of a more fruitful life.
The artists made their “headquarters” at the base of a telephone pole at the intersection of Weedpatch Highway and Bear Mountain Boulevard. They invited residents of the area to come there and record their personal stories.
What resulted was an amalgam of languages — English, Spanish and Mixteco — and a rich tapestry of sounds that includes cars whizzing by, brief spurts of music amplified by boom boxes, and occasionally, whispers of wind blowing across the vastness of that area between Arvin and Bakersfield.
To link the various parts of the exhibit, two very long lengths of rope — one red, one white — that are knotted at various intervals are mounted on one wall. Lloyd explained that during their research the artists learned that in ancient times, storytellers held similar knotted cords. Each knot served as a reminder that certain points in the story were not to be forgotten.
New men’s chorus
To avoid making weekly round trips to Southern California to sing in a four-part harmony chorus, Don Kileen has decided to form a similar group in Bakersfield.
“I live in Glennville,” he said, “and I got tired of making the drive to Santa Fe Springs — it was a 12-hour commitment. I knew there were people here who might be interested. So far we have about 18 members.”
Kileen, a retired accountant, added that for many years he was a member of the Golden Empire Chorus, a local group of barbershop-style singers that disbanded some time ago.
Currently, the new group is focusing on Christmas music, both secular and religious. It has dates to perform during the holiday season downtown around the Liberty Bell at Truxtun and Chester avenues, and at various senior centers.
Rehearsals are held weekly from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays in the activity building at Rosewood Retirement Community, 1301 New Stine Road. To contact Kileen, call 536-8347.
“Betrayal,” an exhibit at The Empty Space gallery, 706 Oak St., features the work of three local artists, Lisa Small, Amber Saunders and Jen Raven. The exhibit’s theme relates to the theater’s current stage show, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” The exhibit can be seen before curtain time, which is at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, donations accepted. Call 327-PLAY.
“Weedpatch: A Good Place to Start”
When: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, now through Oct. 5.
Where: Arts Council of Kern, 2000 K St., Suite 110.
For more information: Call the arts council at 324-9000.
Camille Gavin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.