C California Style

Nathan Lynch working on Doubledrink. Photography by jan sturmann.
Telephones in The Key Room, where visitors can pick up a handset and listen to sounds relating to curios from Headlands’ past, cataloged by Carrie Hott. Photography courtesy of headlands.
The Commons main plaza. Photography by robert herrick.
Members of Ball-Nogues Studio reused the former parking lot’s cement in their work. Photography by courtesy of ball-nogues studio.
A final version of the terrazzo Welcome Terrace East & West. Photography by robert herrick.
The Rodeo Room by David Ireland. Photography courtesy of headlands.
Letters from Chris Kabel’s Wall Space text display.

A Different Story

by C California Style

The landmark Headlands Center for the Arts reinvents itself

Back in 1982, the fledgling Headlands Center for the Arts took over nine buildings from the National Parks Service, giving artists a place to work as well as free rein to reimagine two of the structures—1907 Fort Barry barracks—into site-specific artworks. In one building, renegade David Ireland stripped the walls down to the original plaster and sandblasted the ceilings to reveal its tin panels, then designed curved modular furniture with architect Mark Mack to fill the space. Bay Area design luminaries Bruce Tomb and John Randolph tackled the whimsical latrine, visual artist Ann Hamilton revamped the mess hall, and systems-themed interdisciplinary artist Carrie Hott created The Key Room, a space dedicated to categorizing disparate objects.

Today the organization hosts approximately 50 national and international artists from all disciplines who live on site, break bread together and often collaborate in their endeavors, both professionally and personally. “We have a lot of marriages that have come out of here,” says Sharon Maidenberg, executive director, noting that musicians are often the party wranglers, gathering the clan for late-night dance parties followed by bowling in the vintage alley (where the pins are set by hand).

For its first major evolution in 15 years, Headlands raised $1.8 million to create a new outdoor area designed by CMG Landscape Architecture, commissioning three artists to rephrase the area. Dutch artist Chris Kabel crafted a sculptural installation, entitled Wall Space, to display text; Los Angeles-based Ball-Nogues Studio reworked the original concrete driveway into a graphic terrazzo floor sculpture; and Bay Area artist Nathan Lynch created Doubledrink, a two-way drinking fountain that brings sippers face-to-face.

And the outside world is expected to participate. “We have always been more publicly oriented than most residencies,” explains Maidenberg. “There’s more interest in the mix.” October marks a rekindling of the center’s open house and ongoing exhibitions, with opportunities to visit artists Will Rogan and Edra Soto, among others, in their workspaces. There’s also intimate artist talks, Sunday suppers, member dinners, hikes and more throughout the fall. Or visitors can simply drop by for coffee. “At Headlands we make up our own rules,” says Maidenberg. Open house, Oct. 15; special fall project exhibition, Nov. 5-17. headlands.org.

Written and edited by ELIZABETH KHURI CHANDLER.


This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of C Magazine.