PICTURED: “Hooked Dark Matter I,” mixed media on repurposed billboard by Madeleine Ignon, will be installed outside of Ojai Valley Imports for Joyride Ojai. Image courtesy of Madeleine Ignon

by Emily Dodi 

Back in March, artist Cara Bonewitz had just celebrated the opening of her first solo art show, Current in the Shadows, at Ventura College’s New Media Gallery when stay-at-home orders were put in place. The gallery’s doors were shut and what must have been Bonewitz’s feelings of joy and excitement turned into a sense of grief. 

“I found I was stuck in my creative process,” Bonewitz explains, adding that after the gallery closed and the pandemic raged on, she found herself falling into a sort of “artistic malaise.” When she spoke to other artists, she realized she wasn’t alone. “What’s the point?” was a common refrain — a response to feeling shut in and shut out from being able to share one’s work. Soon, however, Bonewitz noticed that what was emerging was “a pressing desire for more meaningful ways to engage with art and humanity.”

But what would that look like? 

A friend in Los Angeles told Bonewitz about the city’s popular Drive-By-Art, “an outdoor public art exhibition that is experienced from the safety and intimacy of one’s own automobile.”

“That put a little bee in my bonnet,” Bonewitz says. She reached out to other artists to gauge interest and Joyride Ojai — “a community-driven art exhibition program” — was born. 

“It’s like going to see the neighborhood Christmas lights, but for art!” Bonewitz explains. Joyride Ojai takes place Oct. 9-11 throughout the Ojai Valley. A guide to featured local artists and their exhibitions is available at joyrideojai.org. As the site explains, people are invited to visit various locations by “car, bike, pogo-stick, horse, foot … whatever suits your fancy. Just be sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

The event supports local artists and is meant to provide “much needed levity and contemplation during these times.” It’s not about selling anything. Rather, Bonewitz says, “Joyride Ojai is really about fostering community through creativity.” While it’s wonderful that museums and galleries have placed exhibitions online, Bonewitz says, “I know I’m tired of looking at a screen. Any time I can experience creativity in real life is a luxury.” 

Bonewitz, who works in sculpture, installation, painting and photography, and is also a textile designer, adds that Joyride Ojai is “the project I needed to power my creative energy.” It has been a way for her to connect with fellow artists, some of whom she has yet to meet in person. 

Someday, hopefully in the near future, Bonewitz’s show and all other gallery and museum exhibits will be open to the public again. Until then, Joyride Ojai is an inspired way to bring art to the people, and people to the artists, in a fun, safe way. These are difficult times we are living in, but Bonewitz points to a positive that has come out of it. “People are more open and willing to connect with each other.” 

Joyride Ojai points the way. 

Joyride Ojai takes place Oct. 9-11. For more information, visit www.joyrideojai.org. For more information about Cara Bonewitz, visit www.carabonewitz.com.