This year the Bolinas Museum’s annual Benefit Lawn Party will be held on May 27 in a lovely setting at a private property across from the Bolinas-Stinson School, on Gospel Flat—the heart of the town’s early history. The family-friendly party includes sumptuous seasonal food, wonderful wine, a special cocktail, Hog Island oysters, live music by High Tide Collective and the dramatic panoramic view of tidal wetlands and evening light on the lagoon and ridge beyond. The beauty of this area has drawn accomplished artists since the mid-1800s, and two highly respected plein air painters will be actively capturing the scenic vistas during the party: Marin County painter Christin Coy, whose work is associated with exhibitions that benefit environmental causes and San Francisco artist Randall Sextant, who is renowned for sensual landscapes and other subjects.
While Gospel Flat was greatly changed by the introduction of trees like eucalyptus and Monterey cypress and the reclamation of tideland in the 1870s, it is still obvious why the richness of this wind-sheltered, sunny flatland next to a year-round freshwater creek attracted human habitation. It was home to the Coast Miwok people for perhaps 2,000 years, in a primeval world of abundance we can hardly imagine today. The first non-native settlers also chose this flatland. The Garcia/ Briones family arrived around 1834, introduced agriculture to coastal Marin and made the area the heart of their Rancho Las Baulines. In 1849, the Gold Rush brought waves of newcomers to log and ranch around the lagoon and by the 1860s the flatland was occupied by a school, a store containing the first Bolinas post office—at the site of today’s Las Baulines Nursery—a blacksmith shop and homes. It seemed this would be the center of the township, so in 1877, three churches were built near the school. The Marin County Journal commented in its December 10, 1877 issue that the area had been dubbed “Gospel Flat.” The name stuck even after the Presbyterian church was moved to the corner of Brighton Avenue in 1898 and the Methodist church was moved into town to serve as a cheese factory (and now the Bolinas Realty building). But the Catholic church still presides on the hill, anchoring the name to the place. Since the 1970s, Gospel Flat has been home to organic, sustainable-practice farms, including Blackberry Farm, the internationally influential Star Route Farm and later, Gospel Flat Farm, which was started in the ’80s. It is a fitting site to celebrate the coming of summer surrounded by beauty, great food and music, and good people.
The event benefits the Bolinas Museum, where admission to exhibitions and most courtyard events are free. Ticket prices up to the day of the event are $100 for members, or $125 for others, $45 for teens age 13 to 19 and free for children 12 and under. Day-of adult tickets are all $150. All but $50 is tax deductible.
Elia Haworth if the Curator of Coastal Marin Art and History for the Bolinas Museum.