We’re Reaping A Harvest Of East County

29 November 2014 Written by  We’re Reaping A Harvest Of East County
Published in December 2014 Articles

The Delta Gallery Of the Arts opened its doors last April with a Grand Opening on April 4 that was grand indeed.

About 450 people came by to see the sparkling new facility including a number of artists, city dignitaries, Chamber members, and Rotarians. The Gallery is located in the Streets Of Brentwood in a space that had been recently vacated by the Banana Republic. They left the facility in shabby condition. We had only a few weeks between the signing of the contract and the scheduled opening, so we literally worked day and night to repaint the entire facility, plus installing the various shelves and building pedestals that would transform the place from a retail clothing store to an upscale art gallery. Two beautiful chandeliers created by the noted Oakley artist, Jenny Floravita, provided an elegant flourish.

The Gallery opening gala featured a number of examples of fine art representing various mediums including works that were done with oil, acrylic, watercolor, textiles, plus photographs and pencil drawings. Various examples of metal and ceramic sculptures were featured on floors, pedestals, and shelves. The plural “Arts” in The Delta Gallery Of The Arts title refers to the fact that we wanted to honor all the arts — a fact reinforced by our logo that contains the tagline “Visual, Performing, and Literary.” We acknowledged the “performance” part of our mission in the opening with live music and a performance by tango dancers. The Delta Gallery Of the Arts is providing residents with the opportunity to experience culture in their very own community rather than traveling “over the hill” to sample current trends in the arts and to meet the artists themselves. We’re bringing art to East County on a grand scale and building an art-centered infrastructure. Local residents are making use of the gallery in a number of different ways, and it has become the center for a variety of creative enterprises. The facility provides a home base for the Brentwood Art Society and the Brentwood Teen Theater. We recently became the home for a new art organization called The Art Guild of the Delta, which began last October with 20 members but has now grown to more that 115.

The Gallery is also home to the Brentwood Theater Company, which Steve Kinsella and I, with the help of the Brentwood Art Society, began in a vacant lot in 2010. We’re celebrating this sixth season by doing six productions — four musicals and two plays. We began in October with Forever Plaid. This month we’re doing The Twelve Dates Of Christmas and an original, charming, family-friendly show, called Christmas At the Biltmore. In February we’re doing Forbidden Broadway, which is a rollicking good-natured revue parodying Broadway musicals. In May we’re doing another comical musical production — the highly acclaimed, Nunsense, which had an initial Broadway run that spanned 3,672 performances, putting it into the books as history’s second-longest-running Off-Broadway production. The season concludes in July with another favorite, Hello Dolly — a musical that received 10 Tony Awards — a record it held for 35 years.

With more than 6,000 square feet of floor space, the Gallery gives an impression of spaciousness. In fact, the area is divided into four individual galleries. Visitors first encounter the Masters Gallery, which is the largest area, providing exhibition space for invited and juried artists with cohesive bodies of work. It is large enough to provide sufficient space for the largest indoor works. The Masters Gallery features one or two artists whose works are displayed for up to six weeks.

Visitors pass from the Masters Gallery into The Delta Regional Gallery, which is where the Art Guild of the Delta makes its home. The Guild utilizes the walls, pedestals, and shelves to display the members’ artworks on a rotating basis.

The third display area, called the Delta Community Gallery provides a meeting space for various art-related organizations. It is also classroom space for art classes provided by The Delta School Of The Arts. Three instructors — Sherry Cummings, Nancy Roberts, and Peggy Magovern — provide lessons.

The fourth space, the Studio Gallery, is dedicated as an exhibition space for artists who specialize in smaller bodies of work. The works rotate just as in the larger Masters Gallery.

The Gallery exhibits the works of talented artists — many of them highly skilled. We have a growing fan base of people who visit on a weekly basis. Some visitors come several times to examine a piece before they make the decision to purchase it. Our reputation is growing and visitors are coming from such remote locations as Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Tri-Valley, Berkeley, and Marin County.

Back Story
I’ve been involved both in fine arts and performing arts in one way or another since high school. During the six decades since then, I have performed and directed more plays and musicals than I can remember. Art was my life; my work was as a specialist in the Photographic Equipment industry.

My wife, Betty, and I moved to Brentwood from Corte Madera in 2002. We wanted to be near our kids, who all live on this side of the Bay. We also wanted a single level family home with some yard space. We were able to purchase a nice home on a one-third acre lot, which provided enough space for my wife to exercise her passion for growing things. She’s planted a dozen trees and has put under cultivation a garden plot that is probably 20 times larger than the micro-size garden she had in our former residence. Another reason for the move is that I had formerly been creating my art in a diminutive and cramped studio that I rented in Marin County. I was able to convert two bays of our four-car garage and an outdoor patio space into a spacious studio, where I can create my watercolors, pen-and-ink drawings, and especially my beloved Ceramic sculptures.

After a few years in East County, I regretted the absence of any live theater and gallery, so began to adopt a role as an enthusiastic East County advocate for the arts. I was apparently effective in the role because last year I was honored as Artist of the Year (for the second time) and am currently Brentwood Citizen Of the Year.

In 2012, I joined the Brentwood Arts Commission and served as board chairman for a year. We worked together to develop a sculpture on Balfour near Heritage High, across from the golf course. The piece features two figures by celebrated Discovery Bay artist, Brian Keith, designed to reflect Brentwood’s role as Playful City. gallery director. She has worked tirelessly with me on various art-related projects. Rosie is past president of Chapter QS — the Antioch chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO). She is currently president and co-founder of the Art Guild of the Delta and an instructional aide in the LMC Ceramics Department.

Four years ago Rosie directed an Art Guild-sponsored program towards providing scholarship funds for LMC art students assisting them in the purchase of their art supplies. Rosie is a gifted ceramic artist and a good friend to my wife and me. The two of us have shared space and kiln time in each other’s studio. For several years, local artists had sponsored an annual Artist Tour. Only a handful of artists were represented, so Rosie and I expanded the effort, actively enlisted more artists, published an attractive color catalog for the event, and even erected small signs outside each of the venues directing traffic to that particular studio. We eventually had more than 40 participating artists. A large number of residents were dropping by to see the studios and the pieces that were being created.

I worked with the Brentwood Art Society to make the Art, Wine & Jazz Festival a success and in 2010 webrought the event from its downtown Brentwood venue to the Streets of Brentwood, which caught the favorable attention of the property owners. I had opened a small commercial art gallery on 2nd Street in Brentwood and the Streets managers thought it would be good for the Streets to have a nice gallery as one of their tenants.

When they first approached me with the idea, I turned them down because I didn’t have the resources for such an ambitious project. The upper managers of the Red Legacy development company, who is the owner of the Streets, met here and renewed their attempts to enlist me in developing a gallery. Finally, last January, Kristen Weidemann, who is the Streets Of Brentwood general manager, called me on the phone and asked, on behalf of the management team, “What will it take to get you here?” We put our heads together and they finally made me an offer that I couldn’t turn down.

Rosie and I have created a gallery that competes favorably with the other top galleries in Northern California. We distinguish ourselves from them by the fact that we feature local and regional artists and that everything on display is available for purchase.

The Delta Gallery Of The Arts is providing an essential service to East County because art is a shared language that everyone speaks, creating connections that serve to enrich our shared human condition and lift the social and spiritual character of our community.

This month we are filling our entire gallery with art works that are priced under $500. Come visit us soon, because in January we are going to move to the Next Big Thing.

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