Marin's Many Communities

In Marin, parental involvement with the schools probably represents Marin’s largest and strongest constituency (which the dictionary defines as “a group that supports, patronizes or offers representation for continuing support”). And that’s good. Yet within the county, there are other communities (defined as “persons of common interests scattered throughout a larger society”) that have a strong influence on public life. Here are just a few:

After parents and their school-age children, the county’s next largest constituency is dog owners and their dogs. In Marin, dog parks rival soccer fields as community gathering places. And the county’s headquarters for dogs is the 7.5-acre campus of the Marin Humane Society in Bel Marin Keys. “Over 700 volunteers spend time here,” claims special events manager Sonja Bohannon, “helping in every way possible our nearly 100 employees.” And a perk for staff is the option to bring dogs to work.

An equally congenial community surrounds Throckmorton Theatre, located in a 100-year-old movie house in Mill Valley. “Last week, we celebrated our 10th anniversary by raising around $100,000 in one night,” executive director Lucy Mercer says. Young singers, crafty comedians, a worldtouring illusionist (from San Anselmo), and the legendary drummer and producer Narada Michael Walden (from San Rafael), who has collaborated with Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin, had the packed house spellbound, standing, applauding and roaring with laughter.

Earlier that week, Dominican University of California received a $25 million grant, the largest in the school’s almost 125-year history. Have you seen the campus lately (or ever)? It’s on Grand Avenue in San Rafael and you’d think you were in New Hampshire. The grant was announced to an audience of nearly 300 students, parents, neighbors and alumni. One alum, Marin Superintendent of Education Mary Jane Burke, readily admits, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Dominican; literally and figuratively, this school changed my life.” Dominican’s enrollment exceeds 2,200.

There probably isn’t a more telling comment on Marin’s character than the support it gives to independent bookstores. While other areas are (unfortunately) losing them, over the past year, Marin gained two booksellers: Copperfield’s in San Rafael and Diesel, A Bookstore, in Marin Country Mart. Others, all centers of their own communities, include Whytes Booksmith (San Anselmo), Book Passage (Corte Madera), Depot Bookstore and Cafe (Mill Valley), First Street Books (Kentfield) and Stinson Beach Books and Point Reyes Books (West Marin). Even Barnes and Noble in Town Center has a local feel to it.

Likewise, Marin’s farmers’ markets are thriving centers of community. They’re springing to life this month and, by summer, there’ll be a farmers’ market on Tuesdays (Tam Valley); three on Wednesdays (Corte Madera’s Town Center, Fairfax and on Novato’s Grant Avenue); two on Thursdays (the big one at the Marin Civic Center and a fun one in downtown San Rafael); one on Fridays (near the CVS in Mill Valley); three on Saturdays (Marin Country Mart, Marinwood Village and Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station); and two on Sundays (the state’s third largest farmers’ market at the Marin County Civic Center and one of the friendliest, in Sausalito.)

Finally, do yourself a favor and visit a few of this month’s Marin Open Studios. Talk about a community — the artists of Marin are indeed one. Over the first two weekends in May, more than 250 painters, sculptors, photographers and jewelry and furniture craftspeople invite you into their studios to see their work and possibly make a purchase. A colorful catalog showing samples of every artist’s efforts, including an easy-to-follow map with every studio’s location, is part of this month’s Marin Magazine. There are countless other community-creating constituencies in Marin and, simply put, in this day and age we’re darn fortunate to have them.

That’s my point of view. What’s yours? Email [email protected]