Final reflections on Diablo Valley’s vibrant art scene

Final reflections on Diablo Valley’s vibrant art scene

Final reflections on Diablo Valley’s vibrant art scene
Columnist John and wife Alice Nakanishi in front of their new home in Oregon are ready for retirement.

John NakanishiCONCORD, CA (May 24, 2024) — It is with mixed emotions that I write this final column for the Pioneer, as my wife and I are moving to a suburb of Portland, Ore. We’ve discussed the possibility of a move for some time, and we’re ready now to enjoy wetter weather and to be closer to several family members in the Pacific Northwest.

Although I am looking forward to this new location, I will always hold the San Francisco Bay Area and especially my 30+ years in the Diablo Valley fondly in my heart.

I’ve spent hours reflecting on the natural beauty of this area. I love the magnificent views of Mount Diablo and the Diablo Valley, with cows grazing on grassy brown hillsides and hawks flying overhead. I will not soon forget those soothing Delta views at parks like Big Break or the marina in Martinez.

Local history

As I looked out over the valley from Mount Diablo or ran single track trails across an open space, I often wondered about the local history. What was it like for the Native Americans, fishing and foraging among these foothills? I’d try to imagine Spanish missionaries, the pioneers following their Manifest Destiny or the Gold Rush 49ers looming in the landscape. For me, connecting with the history of a place enhances its beauty and gives me inspiration.

The splendor of this area is inspirational to countless talented artists, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. This has been the biggest benefit I have received from my time writing this column.

Before this, I would enjoy our local artists’ work, but as I got to know not just their art, but their enthusiasm and motivation, I gained a new appreciation of the art. Each artist creates based on their personal life experiences, so it is no wonder how much variety there is in art. When you get to know an artist, their artwork becomes even more meaningful and inspiring.

The artist community

Contra Costa County is a great area to meet artists. The art network here is vibrant and alive, and my involvement has enhanced my experience as an artist. I’ve worked with several artist communities, such as the Concord Art Association, Martinez Art Association, Las Juntas-East Bay Artist Guild, Lamorinda Art Alliance and Arts Benicia. I’ve also participated with local art galleries, such as The aRt Cottage, JOR Fine Art Gallery, Main Street Arts and Studio 55.

Be sure to get involved, and remember to check out the many small independent art studios where you can take a class, buy art and crafts, or just spend time viewing the art.

This area is filled with inspirational visual images, beyond the natural beauty of the hills, mountains and water, as well as the native flora and fauna. It has been amazing to find such an impressive amount of public art.

Art organizations throughout our area work to fill art in public areas, such as libraries, church halls, senior centers, businesses, and public and private offices. Many organizations coordinate activities like Paint Jams in the park, art and wine events and pop-ups at various venues. You can see murals on public buildings and art on utility boxes at street corners.

Even the mayor of Concord has gotten involved, promoting art and artists by installing an art gallery in the hallway of City Hall and by publicly recognizing the art of elementary school students.

I hope you will take advantage of these and other opportunities to experience art and will continue to support our great artist community.


Finally, I want to thank all the readers who have followed this column and have contacted me with encouraging comments. I will miss all of you. It has been my pleasure sharing my art discoveries with you.

If you’d like to share your own art discoveries with me, contact me through my website at

Email comments to John Nakanishi  at

Editor’s Note: Thank you, John, for your insightful look at Concord and the Diablo Valley’s wonderful artists. We wish you well in retirement and your new home in Oregon. Julia O’Reilly, owner of JOR Gallery in Clayton and Danville will take over reporting on the area’s fine arts scene. Watch for her profile of local artist Rhu Bigay in the June issue.

John Nakanishi
John Nakanishi

John Nakanishi is treasurer of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.