After 18 months of showing their work at their cooperative gallery named the Project–Fine Art Zone, the nine women artists who founded and operated the exhibition space at de la Guerra Plaza have decided to focus their efforts in a different direction.
In June 2011, rather than simply complain, as artists often tend to do, about the limited availability of places in Santa Barbara in which to show their art, Donna Ayscough, Liz Brady, Erika Carter, Theresa Carter, Lloyd Dallett, Ashley Dart, Virginia McCracken, Lisa Pedersen, and Susan Tibbles decided to convert a former clothing outlet just off State Street into an art space. With the encouragement and support of the building's owner, Gene Montesano, and property manager, John Bennett, in an intense nine days of work the artists created one of the most elegant venues in town.
From the start, their art encompassed a variety of styles and media, and the gallery's refusal to follow a narrow vision of the kind of art it was going to show was a major strength. To further broaden the repertoire of work it displayed, alongside the work of its founders, on a number of occasions the gallery turned over a small interior space for one month apiece to a featured guest artist from the community—respectively, Dan Levin, Philip Koplin, Hugh Margerum, Rafael Perea de la Cabada, and Dug Uyesaka.
The spirit of collaboration that infused the efforts of the nine artists lifted the level of energy in the Santa Barbara art scene, not least through the liveliest and best-attended opening receptions of Downtown Santa Barbara's First Thursday events.
But the November First Thursday is the gallery's last, at least in this incarnation. The artists have decided to close the space at de la Guerra and take a bit of respite from the task of creating new work and presenting a new show every month. Among the possibilities for the future are occasional shows in “pop-up” galleries in otherwise underutilized spaces.
The artists of the Project—Fine Art Zone have made significant contributions both by their art and their example of cooperative effort. As an indication of their commitment to the local community, a portion of all sales was donated each month to Girls Inc. In this and many other ways the town has been—and, if the past is any indicator of the future, will be—the better off for their presence.
In addition to the final First Thursday on November 1, on November 17 the gallery is hosting what can be expected to be an affectionate and sprightly farewell.
Although the doors are closing for good at this space on November 20, the artists are looking forward to finding new ways to keep their collaborative spirit an ongoing part of the Santa Barbara community.