Art Works Gallery in Grass Valley: Five years old and thriving

ACROSS THE COUNTRY, ARTIST COOPERATIVES are booming, because artists can share costs, share knowledge and enjoy a personal experience with the collector. Nowhere is the success of artist cooperatives more apparent than at Art Works Gallery in downtown Grass Valley, now celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Though it opened amid the great recession, the gallery—in a renovated Gold Rush-era building on Mill Street—is thriving. It just added five new artists, and last year it won “best art gallery” on the KCRA3 A-List amid competition from big galleries in Roseville, Folsom and Sacramento.

“During an economic downturn, we have been able to be successful and grow during our five years in business, partly because we’re based on a cooperative style of doing business,” says painter and interior designer Priscilla Roach, who is one of the 32 artists at the gallery.

Photographer Gail Lipson remembers the early days. “About 30 artists, most of whom didn’t know each other, worked together for three weeks to remodel the storefront and turn it into an art gallery. In the process we built a supportive community of artists.”

Adds photographer David Wong: “In the five years that the gallery has existed, we have seen it flourish to become one of the ‘must-visit’ stores in downtown Grass Valley.”

The gallery has been at the heart of a revival in downtown Grass Valley. It is the only full-time art gallery in downtown Grass Valley that is open everyday.

Visitors appreciate the broad mix of art. It includes ceramic and glass, furniture, jewelry, mixed media and mosaic, painting, photography, sculpture and wood. The artists come from Nevada County, which has the highest number of artists per capita than any other county in the state.

The gallery is run by the artists, offering collectors a chance to meet them in person. “All artists are juried into the gallery, so the calibre of art is maintained at a high and consistent level,” David points out.

Along with the artwork inside, Art Works Gallery is known for its innovative window displays, setting the standard for other local merchants. The gallery also is known for its generosity in the community, including its partnerships with schools and nonprofits such as the Food Bank of Nevada County and Habitat for Humanity.

(Photo: David Wong)

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