Under sunny skies on a gorgeous afternoon in Marin, the members of the Outdoor Art Club gathered at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael to accept the Bank of Marin’s Spirit of Marin Award as nominated by the Mill Valley Chamber, a recognition of the club’s vast impact on the town in lasting, ever-evolving ways.

OAC Board President Susan Johnson and past president Maria Hilakos Hanke accepted the award on behalf of the OAC, which was founded in 1902 by 35 women, many of whom were members of the families that built the foundation of Mill Valley, and entered its 115th year in September.

“This is a gift – I had no idea when i joined how much I would value this club,” Johnson says. “The women in this organization are just amazing. They are intelligent, dynamic, caring and they have been leaders in the community, have had important careers and to be able to work with people with their abilities and sensibilities and kindness has just been so rewarding for me. I am so pleased and honored to be a part of it.”

The OAC’s founding mission was to “preserve the natural scenery of Mill Valley and the surrounding country, to beautify the grounds around the public buildings, to work against wanton destruction of birds and game, to encourage the development of outdoor art and to engage in other civic, literary, and charitable work.”

Johnson’s year as present comes on the heels of the OAC’s biennial Garden Tour, which was last held in April. The Tour is the Club’s major fundraiser, with proceeds going to both preserve the organization’s historic Bernard Maybeck clubhouse and benefit an array of Marin County nonprofits, with more than $350,000 going to Marin organizations over the past 19 years.

And true to its roots, the OAC continues to support local beautification and infrastructure upgrades, including the renovation of the Replica Gravity Car on the Depot Plaza, and the repair of the Downtown Clock Tower in collaboration with the Mill Valley Chamber and its Enjoy MIll Valley Fund.

“It’s remarkable that after all these years, these women have generated the funds and maintained the building and gone ahead and done all of the outreach things we do and have fun events and parties,” Johnson says. “This is a really vital organization that remains as relevant today as it when it was founded.”

The 411: The Outdoor Art Club received the Spirit of Marin Award for Mill Valley, via the Mill Valley Chamber, at the 24th Spirit of Marin Awards on Friday, October 6 at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael. Here are the rest of this year’s winners:

  • Corte Madera Chamber – Tori Puliz, Nothing Bundt Cakes
  • Fairfax Chamber – Bradley Real Estate
  • Hispanic Chamber – Rosie De Alvarez , National Latino Peace Officers Association
  • Larkspur Chamber – Helen Russell, Equator Coffees and Teas
  • Mill Valley Chamber – The Outdoor Art Club
  • Novato Chamber, Small Business – Valley Oak Wealth Management
  • Novato Chamber, Large Business – Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc.
  • San Anselmo Chamber – San Francisco Theological Seminary
  • San Rafael Chamber, Small Business – Sun First Solar
  • San Rafael Chamber, Large Business – EO Products
  • Sausalito Chamber – Shelby Van Meter, Sausalito Beautiful
  • Tiburon Peninsula Chamber – Steve Sears, Sam’s Anchor Cafe
  • West Marin Chamber – Joyce Goldfield

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