Whether you’ve just made Davis your new home or you’ve been here for years, exploring the town’s culture is a must. Davis isn’t a metropolitan area but it has a surprisingly active art scene. Profiled here are several choices for the art-minded among us. Luckily, admission to these galleries is free.
JOHN NATSOULAS GALLERY
The John Natsoulas Gallery has long been a landmark of sorts in downtown Davis. Located on the corner of 1st and E St., the visible gallery is a perfect venue for art lovers and casual passersby alike.
Within, patrons find several floors of collections that change about once a month, just enough to entice repeat visitors in a small town.
“We have four floors, so we usually have four exhibits at a time,” said Nate Fazakerly, a layout designer at the John Natsoulas Gallery. He added that the current exhibit on Beatnik culture takes up two floors of the gallery space and is not to be missed.
The most valuable part of the John Natsoulas Gallery, however, is the staircase that winds upward for four stories. While the open gallery space is organized and put-together, the staircase is much more confined and covered in amateur art from floor to ceiling.
The space benefits from inconsistency. Each piece is so wildly different from the next that even the most uneducated of art viewers can find something to love (or an equal and opposite experience, something to hate).
As an added bonus to the experience, the John Natsoulas Gallery has recently added a small coffee shop to the front of its first floor to complement the casual, homey vibe of the gallery itself.
Pence Gallery, the most colorful building on D St., is another local treasure trove for artists. Two high-ceiling floors on the lower level and one smaller room upstairs make up a large viewing area. The key aspect of Pence is variety; the exhibits feature single and multiple artist collections as well as artists from a range of locations.
“We [feature] local and regional art, so it tends to be a mix,” Pence Gallery director Natalie Nelson said, and their upcoming exhibits prove it. The Gallery reopens today after being closed for several days to prepare its two new exhibits.
One exhibit is a collection of works painted outdoors by Davis local Joanne Andreson; the other is an exploration of geometric and biomorphic abstraction by various artists outside the Davis area.
DAVIS ART CENTER
If looking at art gives you the urge to create something yourself, then Davis Art Center is the place for you. The Center is a unique blend of art school and art gallery; the Tsao Gallery is located in the crook of the L-shaped building, and studios for a range of creative and performing arts classes are peppered through each leg.
The Tsao Gallery is a simple space used to exhibit predominantly local art, according to Davis Art Center employee Melanie Glover. The collection featured in the space changes about once a month. Center art teacher Sara Post organized this month’s collection, an exploration of layers.
Glover emphatically recommended an upcoming Davis Art Center event to UC Davis students. Junk 2 Genius, said Glover, is a “sculpt off” where teams convert a box full of recycled material into art in two hours. Teams and onlookers can partake in the beer garden, barbecue and silent auction.
For new collections and events featured at these art locations and others, check out the ArtsWeek column every Thursday on the MUSE page.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.