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Bonny Doon Art Tour Returns this Month

For many artists, Levy says, the tour will be the first time they will have displayed their work since the fires and the pandemic.

“Fire in the Forest,” a pastel from Joan Hellenthal, will be part of this year’s DoonArt Tour. — PHOTO: courtesy of Joan Hellenthal

Joan Hellenthal of Bonny Doon has participated in the DoonArt Tour every year since it began in 2010, but 2020 got the best of the event—and Hellenthal. 

“The fire came as close as the next ridge to my house and studio before it was stopped by planes dispensing fire retardant,” she said. “I was evacuated for five weeks but was allowed back to check on my house when it was safe. It was an unforgettable day when the sky was orange and as dark as night in the middle of the day. Very eerie.”

Eerie, indeed, and also inspirational for an artist like Hellenthal. She captured the dramatic feeling of her surroundings with two pieces that will be on display in the 2021 tour. 

Bonny Doon artist Linda Levy said she is excited about this year’s event, and the promise of a fresh start after last year’s CZU Lightning Complex fires decimated more than 86,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. The vast majority of the 1,490 buildings that were destroyed were in Bonny Doon.

“Neighborhood warriors and volunteer firefighters along with Cal Fire came together to battle this blaze. Many homes/buildings in Bonny Doon were left in ruins,” she said. “The Covid isolation and CZU fire destruction and evacuations closed what would have been the 10th anniversary of the DoonArt Tour, during which several Bonny Doon artists lost everything. This year, the Tour is literally rising from the ashes, to share their artistic inspirations with visitors. The strength of their community is apparent in their extraordinary work.”

Levy says that the number of artists displaying their work has dropped due to the loss of homes and studios. They typically have 28-30 artists participating; this year they have 24.

“There will be diversity amongst the artists: painting in oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, digital, gouache, and other mediums like woodworking, photography, ceramics (both functional and sculptural), glass, jewelry, textiles, woodcuts, fiction/mystery author, furniture, tiles and rosemaling,” she said. “And most artists will be demonstrating how they create their work.”

For many artists, Levy says, the tour will be the first time they will have displayed their work since the fires and the pandemic.

“Artists have gone for over a year mostly unable to participate in exhibitions showing their work,” she said. “Many artists were affected by the isolation and the fires/evacuations and have created works of art expressing their experiences, and many have spoken about looking forward to being able to share their work with visitors.”

When the DoonArt Tour started 11 years ago, Levy said it was conceived in order to “make Bonny Doon a destination.”

Many of the area’s artists also participate in the Santa Cruz Art Council’s Open Studios, but the October weather in North County during that event presented challenges. The small number of visitors who made it to the outlying studios also pushed the Bonny Doon community to create its own display.

This year, the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center in Ben Lomond is sponsoring the event as its partner nonprofit.

Levy says the tour will be a feast for the eyes of attendees, and safety will reign during the event. 

“All of our artists have been fully vaccinated, and will be advocating the use of masks for those who feel the need,” she said.


The annual DoonArt Studio Tour, an event, free and open to the public, happens July 31 and Aug. 1, where 12 studios, representing 24 artists, will be open for visitors from 11am to 5pm. Come and be inspired by their expressive visions. For locations, visit the DoonArt Studio Tour’s Facebook page.

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