Design Matters: Headlands Center for the Arts


For years, the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin has served as a creative refuge for numerous artists, enabling their careers to soar. Founded by artists, it provides city dwellers and tourists with a contextual way to explore how art coexists with nature, information and beyond. Prominent creatives including David Ireland have graced the rooms of the rehabilitated buildings with immersive installations. Having just wrapped their annual “friend-raiser” auction, we asked exectutive director Sharon Maidenberg to share their impact on Bay Area society and how the community can get involved.

Headlands director Sharon Maidenberg

What has been the greatest contribution to the community to date?
There are so many ways. From bringing dilapidated old buildings back to life to supporting more than 1,400 global artists (who work in all disciplines), transporting international talent to the Bay Area and more. But if I had to pick just one, it would be the organization’s unique ability to inspire creativity in all those who engage with it.

What affinities does your program have with Silicon Valley communities?
Like the pioneers of Silicon Valley, the artists who founded this place were visionaries, cultivating and creating the improbable intersection of arts, ideas, environment, history, food and community that is the Headlands. Similar to venture capital, our model is about high risk and high return. We invest deeply in people who we believe have the potential to be the creative change-makers in our society.

How does an artist join the residency?
They simply need to apply for our fellowship programs, which have a highly selective process that is informed by a cohort of expert panelists. But once selected, artists are supported in an exceptionally meaningful way.

Headlands Project Space

Who benefits from the annual auction?
The auction is the Headlands’ biggest fund-raiser of the year. Proceeds directly support our artist fellowships and public programs. Unlike other auctions of this caliber, we offer up to 50 percent of the sale price back to participating artists. Last year we wrote checks to artists for nearly $125,000. Our mission is to serve the arts community because we believe they are the key to a robust, vibrant and thoughtful society.

How can the local community get involved?

We welcome visitors to tour our artist-rehabilitated building to see an exhibition during our open hours. Our new outdoor space, The Commons, is a place to take a break or meet up with friends. It has three artist commissions, including a rotating poetry installation on the scale of a grand theater marquee on the wall of one of our three-story buildings. We host public programs year-round. Beyond that, you can volunteer, become a member or support our work in a myriad of other ways.

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