Touring the Gold Country Artists Gallery located at 379 Main St., Placerville, is a journey in history, imagination, and possibilities. It isn’t just the original art, it’s the whole package. The building is 1850-period architecture, replete with interior nooks, thick wainscot, exposed beams, plank floors, odd corners and ancient windows, not to mention the pre-civil war bricks lining the back wall staircase.
There are two floors of colorful paintings, eye-grabbing prints, stunning photography, arresting gourds, awesome wood turnings, mysterious raku, fine jewelry, odd ceramics, blown glass, and functional pottery, all advertising the uniqueness of the 45 Sierra foothill artists who produce the cooperative.
“Just the diversity and variety of things you find here is exciting,” said Megan Hatteras, a retired art teacher visiting from South Lake Tahoe. “Much of it captures nature at work, portraying not only what man sees, but how he sees it.” Added husband Norm, a retired logger, “Lots of good energy here. It’s an amazing place.”
Nothing good happens by accident, says the adage. “It takes realistic standards, continuous self-policing and attention to detail to make it all work,” said photographer Bill Robinson, the current president, and member for nine years. “So it isn’t all inspiration,” he laughed. “There’s perspiration too.”
It all adds up to happy customers. Walls are festooned in framed oils, pastels, charcoals, colored pencil, acrylics, and water colors. Sturdy tables offer turned bowls, carved statues, fancy glass, wire figures, bronze sculptures, and occasionally, tapestries and even clothes. Gleaming cases display original jewelry designs, and a host of imaginative curios, all combining in a universe of color and geometry that beckons more detailed exploration.
“I use it as a gift store,” confided browser Tammy Littleton, an event planner. “I always find something fresh.”
As in any commercial operation, there is overhead. Rent and utilities must be met, so there is monthly per-space rent paid by the artists. Another duty requires each member to serve a certain schedule of shifts, so the gallery can remain open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
The artists must also rotate their displays monthly, and change out the work to avoid the stale look. A few members make a living in the field, but most stay engaged for self-expression and love of the art.
“Nobody becomes an artist to get rich. We’re here to meet our public, listen, learn and strive to improve,” said pastel painter and member Judy Perry. “It’s mutually satisfying.”
Gold Country Artists Gallery was established in 1992. When it became the building’s tenant in 1996, it took over from a T-shirt operation. Jeweler Jim Peet was the gallery president then, and remembers the sheer difficulty of remaking the dingy space into an attractive art venue.
“It was a nightmare in a hundred ways, more refurbishment than we expected, including plumbing and rewiring. Add to that all the cleaning, painting and redesign work. But the result was beautiful, and the people of Placerville have responded in kind.”
Indeed. Robinson’s steady hand continues to guide through the inevitable web of personalities and market variables. “With the perseverance of our talented artists plus support from our great customers, this gallery will remain Placerville’s sustainable art gem for a long time!”
Gold Country Artists Gallery can be reached at 530-642-2944 or e-mail at [email protected] Website is goldcountryartistsgallery.com