SAN JUAN BAUTISTA—In 2013 Galeria Tonantzin, one of San Juan Bautista’s few art galleries, closed its doors after more than 20 years.
Its absence, said artist and gallery co-founder Jennifer Colby, has been noticeable in the small community.
“I know how much people have missed having a gallery,” Colby said. “San Juan is an arts community, but we haven’t had a lot of spaces for it.”
This is why Colby, who is also a liberal arts professor at Cal State Monterey Bay, decided she would try to open a new gallery. She came across an available retail space in downtown San Juan Bautista, across from the San Juan Soccer Field.
Quickly, she reached out to her friend, architect and business owner Luis Matchain, whose family operated the Matchain Basque Restaurant.
“When I realized this space was perfect, I called Luis right away,” she said. “I could see this as more than just a gallery—a studio, too.”
The Luna Gallery will open its doors on August 4, along with its first exhibition, “Dreamscapes.” The Eco Arts Studio will follow, opening next door in late September.
Colby says the new gallery will feature fine art from regional and international artists, primarily from Mexico and Europe. The attached studio will provide space for workshops and activities in the community.
“Over the years, I’ve been a curator at different museums,” Colby said, “and I teach at CSUMB … I’m relying on all these connections to bring art into this new space.”
“Dreamscapes” will highlight artwork “resonating with magical realism.” Artists Michele Faia, Don Faia, Carmen Leon, Michelle Robertson and Lucinda Lynch will be featured.
Leon’s work, said Colby, tells stories that connect with her Mexican culture. Michelle and Don Faia create circular mandala pieces, and Lynch works in ceramics.
Robertson creates composite photographs, which refers to images created by combining elements from two or more photos.
“When you look at Michell’s works, some people might think, ‘Oh, she just picked these up on the internet,’” Colby said. “But no—it’s something she staged and captured in this really amazing way. They’re very mysterious and pretty cool.”
Colby says she hopes to bring back annual exhibits to Luna Gallery that they used to host at Galeria Tonantzin, including the Virgin of Guadalupe show they did every year at Christmastime. They also plan to center a lot of their work at both the gallery and the studio around ecological issues.
“We want to do things related to climate change and community resilience,” she said. “We’ve previously done projects related to watersheds, including one in 2004 around the Pajaro watershed … We want to keep going with that.”
They also hope to connect and work with other local partners, such as theater arts organization El Teatro Campesino and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Eventually, they also hope to serve local artists by giving them an online platform to sell their work.
“The arts really do have that power to help us connect,” Colby said.
Colby said that after Galeria Tonantzin closed, she joined the local school board, which has given her a different perspective going into this new gallery venture.
“As business owners, we always think more about the tourists coming through, just stopping and having lunch here on their way to the coast,” she said. “But I now understand more about the needs of the community. Which is why this opportunity is so great. We’ll have two spaces—one, a high arts gallery and another for local workshops that will be used by locals. I just think that San Juan Bautista has so much potential.”
Luna Gallery’s opening reception will be held Aug. 20, 5-7pm at 107 The Alameda, Suite B, San Juan Bautista. The Eco Arts Studio will debut during the San Benito Open Studio art tour, Sept. 24-25. Another special reception, featuring artists from Mexico, will be held Oct. 1. For information call 623-ARTE.