The Mill Valley Art Festival


(Naomi Lencher)

By Shaina Mandala

The Mill Valley Fall Art Festival lies amongst the redwoods that adorn Old Mill Park. Annually, it brings back the spirit of Mill Valley, as it has for the past 60 years. The Festival used to be held in The Depot, previously known as Lytton Square, until it grew and moved under the canopy of Old Mill’s trees, where many other events are observed. 

The Festival is solely run by volunteers, including high school students from Tamalpais High School. Non-profit organizations also run food, music, and art activities for children. This renowned Bay Area event brings art, artists, and art lovers together for the charming, two-day event.

This year, rain sprinkled through the trees, but the Festival thrived despite that. Being the first one since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Festival reigned extra special this fall. 

“I noted a few booths in particular,” Tam High art student and festival volunteer Anika Kapan said. “Right at the entrance, there was this booth selling brooms. Little homemade brooms with natural wooden handles, still in stick form. They were very beautifully crafted and I really wanted one. There was another booth selling strange metal creations, like nautical sculptures, that were also jewelry. 

“It was very interesting,” Kapan said, clearly paying close attention to detail. “The booth across from it was selling little puppet-like wall hanging displays, with little princes and princesses sitting on moon-shaped hanging boxes. Some of them were modeled after fairy tales, such as a little Alice in Wonderland with a tiny rabbit.” 

Tam High School’s art booth was notable, showing the importance of art in our community. “There was the Tam booth, displaying all of our Tam art department work to festival-goers,” Kapan said. “It was amazing, with photo, visual arts, and ceramics students all pitching in. Most of the booth was drawings and photos, with paintings here and there, and a large ceramics display. The ceramic woodland teapot by Hailey Groff was an insanely good feature.” Our student’s love for their crafts shows in the way they support their fellow artists. The Tam booth at the Festival represents that.

Tam art teacher, Zach Gilmore, had a separate booth at the Festival. “He utilizes printmaking to create beautiful landscapes from his memory, exploring the world in an interesting and unique way,” Kapan said. Many artists are locals, like Gilmore, and could be recognizable among our community. Gilmore shows how anyone can be an artist and that art does not have a singular or ambiguous definition. This is inspiring to students of all grades, ones who may or may not take an art class at Tam.

Mill Valley’s Fall Art Festival brought shimmer to our town, as it consistently does. Without the volunteers who organize the Festival, sell tickets, set up booths, decorate the forest canopy, aid musicians, entertain the wild children, and make sure festival-goers can purchase food, the Festival would be drab and dysfunctional. Without the artists who demonstrate compassion and dedication to their work, we would have no art Festival at all. Without all the festival-goers who want to support artists, Mill Valley would have no essence. You do not need to have a personal interest in art in order to appreciate the Festival, nor do you have to be from Mill Valley; take the time to explore it next fall.