Ode to Oak Park
Artist bolsters her community through creativity
By Jessica Laskey
Patris’ goal as an artist has always been to “highlight the beautiful things around me,” whether that’s the natural splendor of Montana—where Patris (born Patti Miller) was raised—or the nocturnal splendor of the Broadway corridor in the rain.
Patris has made her career capturing atmosphere with her deft artist’s eye in the form of landscapes, figurative work, still life, plein air and house portraitures. Though she was interested in art from an early age, Patris first made her bones as a language development specialist, earning her teaching credential and master’s degree at Sacramento State, and then went on to work with Southeast Asian refugees, a population she’d tutored while an undergrad at Crown College in Minnesota.
After years teaching English in an ESL program at the Rio Linda (now Twin Rivers) Unified School District and working as a consultant with the Department of Education, Patris turned her attention to another of her interests: community activism. She bought a fixer-upper in Oak Park in 1996 after being entranced with the neighborhood for years.
“At the time, the perception of Oak Park was that it was sketchy and scary,” Patris recalls. “But I was never afraid—it was all part of the scene. I loved the charm of the old historic buildings and I met some really wonderful people. It was really exciting to be working with a larger base of people and figuring out how to improve the community.”
Two years later, Patris found herself in a quandary. She was working part-time to devote more attention to her activism, but her mother had just passed away from cancer and she was struggling to figure out a path forward. She decided to return to her early love of painting and enrolled in art classes at Sacramento City College—choosing the artist name Patris. She eventually opened a studio and gallery at 12th and S streets, holding classes and exhibiting her own and others’ artwork.
But as much as she loved the location, her heart never left Oak Park. In 2012, she relocated the Patris Studio and Art Gallery to 2nd Avenue in the Oak Park Historic District—now called the Triangle District—around the corner from her house.
“It changed the momentum when I changed location,” Patris admits. “But I wasn’t going to give up. This was my dream location in my dream community. At my first studio, I learned as I went—through the school of hard knocks—but over here, I had time to grow organically. When development started happening and all of a sudden Oak Park became cool and trendy, I was able to bring in nationally known artists, as well as local teachers, to do workshops and really connect with my community. Now, I feel truly plugged in.”
Before the recent shelter-in-place order, the studio was a bustling hub of weekly art classes in drawing and painting, Master Artist workshops, Paint and Sip events, exhibitions, and monthly participation in Second Saturday and Oak Park’s First Friday festivities.
When the pandemic pulled that plug, Patris pivoted as best she could to offer online art classes in lieu of her popular in-person sessions. She’s planning to open slowly and safely as protocols allow, citing the benefit of her studio’s large footprint as a way to keep students socially distant when the space reopens to the public.
“There’s such a hunger and desire to connect,” Patris says. “Not having that camaraderie and creative energy has really been a loss. I don’t know what things will look like completely, but at least we’re beginning to move in a safe and slow direction where people can once again connect with their creative spirit.
“My goal is to navigate through these times so I can continue to be a place where people can come together safely, where I can create my art and continue to be an asset to my community of Oak Park.”
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.