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Sonoma County Gazette
Douglas DeVivo works on a piece of art
Douglas DeVivo works on a piece of art

Artist Seeks to Heal
Community After Disaster

Apr 4, 2019


By Stephen D. Gross

Douglas DeVivo,  long-time owner of Guerneville’s Blue Door gallery isn’t one to stand by and mourn the destruction and loss heaped upon flood victims - his natural response is “what can I do to ease the suffering and make things better”?

He’s happy to contribute the fruits of his own creativity to fundraisers but recognizing there are other artists who also feel the need to do something, he has come up with a win-win-win plan to dip into the living resources our creative and dynamic community could provide. 

“When the Tubbs fire happened I went to the local emergency shelters to see if I could help - they were fully staffed and didn't really need more help. Instead I went to my studio opened the doors put a handwritten sign out front that said 'Come In Do Art,'" DeVivo says.

“I was amazed at how important and how healing it was for people who had lost their homes or were evacuated, to have a place to go and cry, to be listened to, cared about and to steal a bit of time to allow their creative juices to drown the pain and misery of all they were having to deal with”

The huge worktable at the Blue Door Gallery was packed with folks working out, expressing what their feelings about how their lives had been changed. The opportunity offers a few moments in which to unload and restore their spirit. 

“My big work table was full for days, and on the floor kids did their own art while moms and dads given a quiet moment talked on the phone with insurance companies and families,” DeVivo says. “People came in worried, and left in a better mental space after a few hours of creative escape”.

Douglas DeVivo (r) and local artist Patty Bird (l).

A short time later, Doug held two workshops to raise money for fire victims and the response itself was rewarding. 

“People loved the idea of creating and helping at the same time. They liked having an opportunity to raise money for a worthy cause in some place other than a bar or a restaurant,” DeVivo says.

“I’ve come to understand the power of creativity to heal by allowing people to dream, forget, or be still for even a brief period of time reduces their level of stress considerably and has a huge impact on their well-being,” DeVivo says. “Being in a creative space opens the mind (and body) to new possibilities and hope which is of immeasurable value during stressful times.”

Finding ways to inspire people through creativity is an opportunity uniquely suited to artistic people and can have a huge impact on our community without having to depend on cash or established organizations to have a positive effect.

“Many of us have talents we can share and it’s time for creative and imaginative folks to step into a role which will help to both empower and comfort our neighbors,” says Doug.

This recent flooding has been a heavy blow to the people of Guerneville and environs and DeVivo has decided to use his own and other’s artistic talents to create an artistic outpouring involving creators on many artistic levels, and people with a desire or need to express themselves, which should help scores of just plain folks in a way that will enrich the spirit and provide solace to many hearts.

This community is home to an abundance of imaginative and artistic people who have much to offer and, in mid April, Doug DeVivo will be opening wide the welcoming doors of his Main Street studio for a two week period during which creative souls with heart and imagination will bring something tasty to share.

This colorful and  Born-of-a-Disaster Guerneville Art Institute (aka the Blue Door Gallery) will provide the space and creative environment in which a dizzying variety of short workshops will come to life.

As of this writing among the classes and instruction offered: Origami, felting, watercolors, botanical drawing, birdhouse design, collage, drawing on fabric, linocuts, American Indian bead work, small box decorating, body movement, washing eggs, jewelry making, portraiture and sculpture.  Not yet determined nominal fee, with all funds to benefit local flood victims. Spring is upon us, longer days, the Renaissance is at hand. Get out and make something.

The Blue Door gallery is located at  16359 Main St, Guerneville.


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