This is an active time for the art community in West County, from a regional premiere of an award-winning play in Pinole to a new exhibit to musical performances.

The premiere is "Next to Normal," a rock musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey that opens at the Pinole Community Playhouse on Friday.

The story of a suburban mother trying to cope with her mental illness and the consequences it has on her family has already been honored with Tony and Pulitzer awards.

Brian Katz directs the Pinole Players production, which will be limited to eight performances.

"We are honored to be granted the rights to produce this powerful drama on our stage and to bring together an outstanding group of actors, designers and directors," says Pinole Players' producer Patti Clark.

The cast includes Michael Scott Wells, Lisa-Marie Newton, Alex Bonte, Nicolina Akraboff, Brian Dauglash and Perry Aliado.

Shows are at 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 2, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Feb. 10.

Tickets are $23 general or $20 for seniors and students, available by calling 510-724-9844 or visiting www.pinoleplayers.org.

  • Richmond photographer Fletcher Oakes is one of five artists exhibiting at The PHOTO Fine Art Photography Gallery February Print Fair on Feb. 1-2. The fair is from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 1 and 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 2 at the gallery at 473 25th St. in Oakland.

    Oakes will be showing images taken at Point Molate in Richmond.

  • The Point Richmond Acoustic concert series brings hometown folk favorite Claudia Russell and her Folk Unlimited Orchestra to First Methodist Church, 201 Martina Ave., at 8 p.m. Feb. 8. Opening the show is Monica Pasqual of the group Blame Sally.

    Tickets are $15, and details are available at www.pointacoustic.org.

  • West Edge Opera will open its new season at 8 p.m. Feb. 1 with a new edition of "L'incoronazione Di Poppea" by Claudio Monteverdi at the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Center, 540 Ashbury Ave. Performances continue at 8 p.m. Feb. 2 and 3 p.m. Feb. 3.

    For tickets or details, visit www.westedgeopera.org or call 510-841-1903.

    ART ACCOLADES: The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County, or AC5 for short, presented three Arts Recognition Awards on Jan. 15, and two went to Richmond residents.

    Honors went to Richmond Arts & Culture Manager Michele Seville and artist and community leader Hershell West.

    Seville had been an arts advocate since coming to Richmond in 1992 and has been involved in numerous projects since taking the city post eight years ago, including the Richmond WRITES program, the heralded Blossoms and Thorns exhibit and art on the Richmond Greenway. She also stepped in as interim director of the Richmond Art Center during its search for a new leader.

    West is an artist, muralist and arts educator who is a co-founder of the annual exhibit The Art of Living Black, a member of the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission, former board president of the Richmond Art Center, and a former board president of Pro Arts in Oakland. He is also a co-founder of the Rosie the Riveter Trust and a major figure in establishing funding for public art through a percentage of city capital improvement projects.

    Also honored was the St. Mary's College Museum of Art.

    The awards were presented at the county board of supervisors meeting in Martinez.

  • Eugene Rodriguez, founder and director of Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center, was honored in December with a United States Artists Fellowship for his work in keeping Mexican roots music alive and active. Rodriguez was honored at an awards ceremony at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, where he was introduced by singer Linda Ronstadt and his brother, Phillip Rodriguez.

    At the ceremony, Eugene Rodriguez performed his song "Valor Latino," accompanied by his son, Emiliano, and David Hidalgo of the group Los Lobos.

    WEST COUNTY NOTES: The Friends of the Albany Library are holding a 50-cent book sale starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the library, 1247 Marin Ave. A $3 bag sale will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. For more details or to volunteer, call 510-526-3720, ext. 26 or send an email to friendsalbany@yahoo.com.

  • All ages and skill levels are invited to an evening of chess from 6 to 8:30 p.m. each Friday starting Feb. 1 at the Richmond Recreation Department, 3230 Macdonald Ave.

    For more details, contact TC Ball, aka "The Black Knight," at 510-439-6311.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.