BARBARA WHITE PERRY, the prolific Sonoma illustrator and local nonprofit advocate, has been named Sonoma Treasure Artist of the Year by Sonoma’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission. The Commission noted her accomplishments as a painter but also outlined her contributions to the community through her service on numerous charitable committees, including a three-year stint as president and chair of the Plein Air Foundation, raising more than $250,000 for arts education in Sonoma Valley schools, and her leadership of the Cottage and Garden Tours in Sonoma which raised $128,000 for the restoration of Maysonnave House, the home of the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation.
The news came less than a month after White Perry saw the release of her well-received book, “Drawing Sonoma.” The book is a collection of 45 ink and vine-charcoal drawings of Sonoma Valley’s most captivating historic properties–structures and vistas lost to time, neglect or development, and unique barns and buildings that few people have ever seen. As she drew, she also researched the history of the properties. Both their artistic representation and their stories are told in the book, thus creating a permanent historical record.
Each year since 1983, the city’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission selects an artist whose body of work and service to the community are substantial, exceptional and inspiring. Nominations for the award are solicited from the community, traditionally beginning in early fall. All artistic mediums are considered, including the fine arts of painting, sculpting, crafting, performing arts such as music and theater, and even literature of various genres. Past recipients of the award include food writer M.F.K. Fisher (1984), musician Norton Buffalo (1992), rock and roll poster artist Stanley Mouse (1994), theater artist Kate Kennedy (1999), and painter Dennis Ziemienski (2011).
“Considering the incredible artists that have received this award in the last 33 years,” says White Perry, “I feel deeply honored, and I want to thank the city of Sonoma for this tribute.”
Pointing out the importance of art as a vital and significant influence on how we see the ever-changing landscape of our community, White Perry draws on her own interest in history and architecture in using her art to celebrate the past and comprehend the possibilities of the future.
Making the case that artists, despite the attention they receive, are not superior to non-artists, White Perry encourages all community members to practice the fine art of volunteering. “By volunteering and supporting the Valley’s nonprofits,” she says, “we can all enrich our community in so many ways.”
In addition to the ink drawings, White Perry creates vivid oil paintings inspired by the vistas of the Valley and quiet beauty of local flowers. “You can walk by the same garden many times, then, a slight change of nature’s light can illuminate the beauty of a single flower never noticed before,” she said.
White Perry began painting and drawing at an early age in rural St. Charles, Illinois. She studied oils, watercolor, acrylic, architectural drafting, and enjoys the process of creating a broad range of styles. Her background in architectural drafting allows her to depict structures in ink drawings with great accuracy and detail.
White Perry’s design and construction of her vineyard home and studio won the Sonoma League’s Preservation Award. Barbara and her husband Fred have lived in Sonoma Valley for over 30 years. Their zinfandel vineyard, next to Buena Vista Winery, supplies grapes for Buena Vista’s Private Reserve Zinfandel, sold only at the tasting room.
Their dog, Benny, was adopted from Pet’s Lifeline in Sonoma.
See more about DRAWING SONOMA on the Ink Drawings page.