Painters. Sculptors. Photographers. Musicians, dancers and actors.
Dublin, a city of 61,000, has more than its share of creative residents, and the Dublin Arts Collective is giving them a presence in the community.
"My idea was to start an information hub, some way we could aggregate and say, 'This is the arts community, this is what they do,'" said floral photographer Vanessa Thomas, co-founder of the nonprofit organization.
"The city did a needs assessment survey in 2016 and discovered it needed more partnerships with the cultural arts community," Thomas said, "to engage people in programs."
Thomas, originally from South Africa and who lived in the United Kingdom before her family moved here, was new to Dublin but she soon made the acquaintance of Sawsan Wolski, owner of the Frame Company on Village Parkway.
"Her walls gave us the opportunity to display our work," Thomas said.
The two artists discussed the potential of working with the city for gallery space as well as promoting arts in the community, and Thomas said they were pleased to be joined by Claudia McCormick, an artist who also had been a City Council member.
Thomas, Wolski and McCormick began talks with the city, and the artists signed up for a booth as the Dublin Arts Collective at the Splatter Festival, Dublin's end-of-summer celebration.
"I met a few artists at Splatter, and it took off from there," Thomas recalled.
They also attended a Youth Expo, where they did the first artists' public display.
"We filled a gap," Thomas said. "Whenever an arts need come up, the Dublin Arts Collective came into play. Then we decided maybe we needed to look into forming a nonprofit so if we needed to apply for funds, we would be more formalized."
A TEDxEmeraldGlenPark speakers event March 9, 2019, at the Shannon Community Center featured Thomas in her role as co-founder of the Dublin Arts Collective, and its new logo was unveiled.
One of the biggest challenges for Dublin artists, Thomas said, has been finding display space. Then in February 2020, Dublin's police services moved into the new Public Safety Complex that houses police and fire, freeing up the former police headquarters at Dublin Civic Center.
"Part of what we were advocating was that this become a center for the arts," Thomas said. "We got the community together, did workshops and joined in all the focus group discussions."
Members of collective attended the City Council meeting Oct. 15, 2019, to cheer as the city allocated funds for design work on a cultural arts center in the building, with gallery space downstairs and the Parks and Community Services Department on the upper level. The estimated cost was nearly $5.8 million, and the expected completion date is early 2022.
"We are super excited about that project. It gives us the space not only for local artists to give programs but to come to do some really cool stuff and to bring cool exhibits into the city," Thomas said.
"We had discussed rotation of artwork through the library and setting up a gallery in City Hall but all of that discussion went into a quiet corner once the lockdown started," she added. "We're hoping to reignite those discussions."
Now the Dublin Arts Collective considers itself a mobilization group, supportive of endeavors such as the U.S. Congressional Art Competition this month, Thomas said, and it has just under 55 members. Two of them, Wolski and Usha Shukla, are also on the Alameda County Arts Commission.
During the last year, the Tri-Valley's three arts organizations found new ways to connect and serve their memberships.
"We've partnered with Pleasanton Art League and Livermore Art Association -- the pandemic has brought us all together," Thomas said. "We all had the same need: How do we engage with people who love our work?"
The three groups have held public meetings jointly.
"We choose topics, whatever we think is relevant," Thomas explained. "Such as framing your artwork and what you can do to make your art look good."
During the last year, artists needed to know how to present their work virtually.
"We got Mike's Camera in Dublin to do a video on how to photograph your work," Thomas said. "Now all of our speakers are online, which makes it easier to share content.
"It has become a very collaborative environment, working across the Tri-Valley. What we've realized is it's a small pool of resources but there's a huge need," she continued. "People want to sell their work, and the more we work together to keep that happening, it is in everyone's interest.
"I've been trying to get different perspectives of art. It has been interesting to see the diversity that's come out of this as well."
A Tri-Valley Artists' Studio Tour (TVAST), is in the works for Nov. 12-14, which will be a local version of the East Bay Open Studios held in years past.
"Fifty, almost 60, artists are participating, and people can still sign up. We are hoping by then there is going to be more freedom of movement. There will be all sorts of artists," Thomas said.
The Dublin Arts Collective brought out its first newsletter earlier this year, "Art Matters: Supporting Artistic and Creative Endeavors in the East Bay."
"You might be asking, 'Why Dublin Arts Collective?'" President Wolski said in her message on page 1. "Our name points both to our roots and our vision.
"Even though we're an East Bay organization, 'Dublin' represents our birthplace.
"'Arts' represents the range of media we intend to explore -- everything from 2D to 3D to electronic and performing arts.
"'Collective' expresses our vision to be inclusive, to appeal to all lovers of the arts, no matter who you are or where you are in life."
The newsletter highlights member news as well as art exhibits in the Tri-Valley and Dublin's Utility Box Art Project. It includes a column by artist and board member Dennis Baker, "The Art of Creativity and Meeting the Moment We Are Given."
"Also, we are supporting the Pleasanton-based teenagers art club called Lapis Lazuli," Thomas said. "They are such an energetic bunch."
Thomas says her own floral photography is a meditative practice as she heads out early each morning with her mixed terrier, Archie, to discover how dawn is revealing each bloom in the area. With a degree in medical microbiology, she sees the science as well as the art in each bloom.
"There is always something interesting -- yesterday I found a double-headed gazania-type daisy," she said. "I look out for anomalies."
To learn more about Dublin Arts Collective, visit dacarts.org, which was created by collective board member Jennifer Huber. Yinghua Wang, owner of Happy Valley Art School, has taken over recently as webmaster.
And now that celebrations are being held in-person again, keep an eye out at city festivals for the creative members of the Dublin Arts Collective.