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NORTH BAY -- Eleven years ago, Artstart, a nonprofit educational arts organization that uses students to create public art works in Sonoma County, was formed.

Several parents of students in Santa Rosa High School’s Art Quest program discussed Gallery 37, a program in Chicago that has students creating art for the community, and decided it was what Santa Rosa needed.

Liz Uribe was one of those parents. Her husband, Mario Uribe, an artist, came aboard as the creative director.

The mission is to provide job training, mentoring and fostering of life-changing breakthroughs by way of a stimulating work experience in the arts for all Sonoma County youth, while creating public art for the community.

“We started with 12 students and six benches in Santa Rosa,” Mr. Uribe said.

Since then, Artstart has created more than 150 benches, 34 murals and many installations and believes it is poised to expand with Santa Rosa's recently enacted art requirement for new development.

“The whole point was to create art to get paid,” said Mr. Uribe. “The students have to compete with portfolios to get in the program. If you want to make art your career and your profession, you have to be able to deal with clients and deal with deadlines and make presentations and understand the business end,” he said.

That is what Artstart teaches the students.

Jacob McAdam went to high school at Maria Carrillo in Rincon Valley. He participated in the program for three summers and is currently studying graphic design at Brigham Young University.

[caption id="attachment_19722" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Jacob McAdam"][/caption]

“I didn’t know whether I wanted to study art or something that would keep me more financially secure,” he said.

But working with Artstart, he said, he realized that he was capable of becoming an artist.

“That is what got me excited. It really helped me become professional in a very palpable way. There were workshops to help you build your portfolio, and it was very educational in terms of becoming a professional artist.”

Mr. McAdam is now the social media coordinator for Artstart and is working on outreach through social networks like Facebook.

Artstart works in partnership with governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, large corporations and small businesses.

Mr. Uribe said one of the important pieces to funding the projects comes from the city of Santa Rosa.

The city passed the Public Art in Private Development Ordinance in 2006, Ordinance No. 3805. The ordinance required that large commercial development include art for public enjoyment.

Under the ordinance, any commercial development project, excluding industrial, in excess of $500,000 valuation is required to expend 1 percent of the project's construction budget to include publicly accessible art or pay an in-lieu fee to the city. That fund is the sole financing for all city art projects.

Artstart, which is financed by public funds, grants, private donations and commissions, has sought to take advantage of the “1 percent for art” as the tax is referred to, said Mr. Uribe.

Currently, CVS Pharmacy on Mendocino Avenue is using Artstart and Mr. Uribe to create mosaic art for the development.

“It is great that when businesses contact me about art, I can bring it to Artstart,” Mr. Uribe said.