Gallery showcases art from Wild Carrots workshops

02/23/2017

Toni Littlejohn was working as a teacher for troubled students in San Francisco when she noticed how making art can calm a person. It was the seed of what became an eight-week mixed-media art workshop that has grown over the last 25 years; now, she offers several sessions of Wild Carrots a year out of her Point Reyes Station studio. The participants, many of whom she said have never been able to tap into their inner artistic ability, experiment with all types of materials: magazines, yarn, clay, wood, skulls and paint, to name a few. The fruits of labor of current and past participants are on exhibit this month at Toby’s Gallery. Ms. Littlejohn said she encourages her participants—or “carrots,” as she refers to them—to use as many mediums as possible, and especially ones that may be intimidating. “A lot of people are afraid to try something they don’t know,” she said. “I want to see how people change over time and I encourage people to become who they are…to listen to themselves. It’s an exciting transition when they do. You can feel how their energy gets enlivened.” This year’s crop of carrots is made up of predominately female (Ms. Littlejohn said there’s usually one male per class) baby boomers from various professional backgrounds. “There’s something about having life experiences and being able to relate life experiences into art,” Ms. Littlejohn said. “An important ingredient is self-reflection.” Ms. Littlejohn said she aims to create an open atmosphere that’s relaxing but active. She lights a beeswax candle for each participant during the class, which begins with group meditation and ends with tea and snacks as everyone shares what they made that day. Nancy Bertelsen, a retired psychotherapist who lives in Inverness, is completing her third year of Wild Carrots. “That’s the thing about Wild Carrots: it’s a generous and kind environment. Judgments come up, you name it and then you keep going and don’t stop creating,” she said. Ms. Bertelsen is also part of a poetry reading linked to the exhibit, which will return to the gallery this Saturday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. For the last decade, the group of poets—Joan Thornton, Julia Bartlett and Kris Brown, along with Ms. Bertelsen—have made it a tradition to write poetry for Wild Carrot exhibits. Ms. Bertelsen said it’s a way to honor the artists. “Some of [the poetry] may very well respond to what’s on the walls,” she said. “I think the reason we do it, to intersect poetry with this art, is a call and response. It kind of amplifies the creativity.” The Wild Carrots exhibit shows until March 1 at Toby’s Gallery, in Point Reyes Station. 

This article was corrected on Feb. 27.