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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Art after dark


Pence Gallery hosts interactive art program

Art museums can often be seen as stuffy or intimidating. Rarely are they associated with bustling atmospheres, live performances, or even food and drinks. The Pence Gallery is different. The gallery, located on D St. in Downtown Davis, aims to defy these norms with its Art After Dark events, a series of interactive art programs hosted on the first Friday of each month.

The series, which is the brainchild of Natalie Nelson, the Pence Gallery director and curator, mixes live music, performance and hands-on art. Each program has a theme based on the current exhibits and also tries to connect the public with working artists.

“It started as an idea in my head, based on some fun times that I had in museums,” Nelson said. “The gallery was the location for collaboration with others, and learning without a capital ‘L.’ We try to keep it inexpensive for students [admission] is $8 for live music, all the activities and free food.”

Themes are chosen in relation to downstairs exhibits that visitors would find interesting. Currently, the gallery is working with Third Space Art Collective and other organizations to host exhibits with free food and live music.

“Our coordinator Stephanie does most of the planning in terms of activities — I guide her to people in the community who I think are great artists and good with the public,” Nelson said. “I’ve done art for over 20 years in museums so hands-on learning is what I love. So far, we have gotten some local businesses such as Hot Italian and Lagunitas to donate foods and drinks to us, and we’d like to see more working with the local business community.”

Art After Dark is a difficult program to plan, according to Stephanie Kocsik, Pence Gallery special events and social media coordinator. Because the event is so unique, many exhibits are planned from scratch.

“I sit down with the calendar of exhibitions for the year and brainstorm ways to integrate the concepts found on the walls into a Friday night party,” Kocsik said. “I have to think about what’s happening tomorrow and what’s happening months from now and attempt to coordinate these events by finding sponsors, seeking out donations, managing the finances of the Art After Dark grant, designing posters, recruiting live music performances, planning a bar man and making sure all of our permits with the city have been approved.”

The aim for Art After Dark is to bring art to a relaxed and fun environment for everyone in the community. Unlike events that focus solely on art, Art After Dark is focused on getting people inside the gallery and presenting the gallery as an accessible space.

“In proposing Art After Dark, one of our main aims was to bring more Millennials into the gallery,” Kocsik said. “To the younger generation, art galleries seem like a stoic, pristine and aloof atmosphere and art itself seems like a world that is incomprehensible without an MFA in fine art.”

Christopher Tran, third-year art studio major, is interested in Art After Dark, and hopes to attend the next event.

“It’s cool that art is being displayed in a relaxed environment,” Tran said. “I think the live music and the welcoming atmosphere are also good reasons to go.”

The next Art After Dark event will take place at the Pence Gallery on Nov. 4 from 7 to 10 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit the Pence Gallery’s website.


Written by: Jennifer Duong – arts@theaggie.org


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