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Gallery Q’s far-reaching approach welcomes a variety of artists with themes ranging from cultural fusion to celebrating nature 

By THERESA KEEGAN

Leave it to Laguna Beach to not only have a community and senior center, but to also have a gallery within this civic-minded structure. 

“We’re very pleased we can show artwork in this setting,” said Bill Atkins, art director for Gallery Q, which is located within the Susi Q Center. He explained the gallery is a labor of love and is essential to the community because of the diverse artists who can be represented. 

In a town that has juried shows and exclusive galleries, Gallery Q is a welcome beacon for artists who may be intimidated to try elsewhere.

“We are open to artists of all levels and all ages,” said Judy Baker, who wears the dual hat of finance manager and Gallery Q arts coordinator. “It’s a nice opportunity for them to exhibit here, especially if they haven’t had the courage to try for a festival or if they’re new in the area. “

Gallery Q Library

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Photo by Bill Atkins 

The mantle in the elegant and inviting library room at the Susi Q doubles as part of the Gallery Q display area

The gallery is a great leveling ground, with new artists mingling with established artists who are veterans at the Sawdust Festival or Festival of the Arts. 

Atkins says the planning for Gallery Q’s five annual shows starts in January when he and Baker meet to decide the exhibition titles. Although they mix it up throughout the year in the fall, for the past five years, they’ve been thrilled to dovetail with the Laguna Art Museum’s popular Art & Nature Festival. 

“This is always a popular show,” said Atkins. “Everyone loves nature, especially artists.” According to Baker, the synergy by having artists at the Gallery Q pursue a topic at the same time as the Laguna Art Museum is energizing. “It just gets the whole community involved. We really like to collaborate with other organizations.” 

Pieces for the show will be accepted on October 13 at the Susi Q and the exhibition will run from October 19-December 14. As with all Gallery Q shows, there will be an elaborate public reception, with wine, music and food, this year on October 21 starting at 5 p.m.

“We often have over 120 people at receptions,” Baker said of the 90-minute indoor and outdoor event. “People love meeting the artists and talking with them, and the artists love showing off their work.” 

Gallery Q organizers

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Courtesy of Susi Q 

Organizers gathered during last year’s opening reception of the Gallery Q Nature exhibit including, (L-R): Judy Baker, Gallery Q arts coordinator; Carole Zavala, Gallery Q founder; Julie Perlin Lee, Laguna Art Museum executive director; Bill Atkins, Gallery Q art director and Nadia Babayi, Laguna Beach Seniors executive director

In addition to the people who come specifically to see the work at Gallery Q, hundreds of others see the art as they pass through the center’s hallways and in the five rooms where classes and meetings are held. 

In fact, it was the organic, constant foot traffic, as well as the lovely lighting, that inspired artist Carole Zavala, more than a decade ago, to establish a gallery in the community building said Atkins. 

Gallery Q opening

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Courtesy of Susi Q   

The opening receptions for the Gallery Q shows attract a variety of people from throughout the community and offer artists a chance to meet with the public 

Although it took a few years, grants and a lot of determination to get Gallery Q established, it is now on steady footing explained Baker, and it operates with a budget under $10,000 annually. It is all museum-quality hanging and lighting options – a feature few community galleries could ever imagine. As a nonprofit, the gallery does not handle sales of artists’ work, but Baker is able to connect potential buyers with artists who have expressed a willingness to sell. Each show always has a few pieces that sell and Baker said she is probably the most ardent consumer, as she walks past the displays daily on her way to the office. 

GalleryQ hangings

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Photo by Bill Atkins 

The fully functioning museum-quality display system throughout the building allows all the art shown in Gallery Q to hang without ever having to hammer a nail in a wall   

 “There’s always a piece or two that just really speaks to me,” Baker laughed. 

In addition to the Nature Show, this year Gallery Q hosted a popular show entitled Animals: Wild and Not so Wild

“Many artists approached me concerned because they didn’t paint animals,” recalled Atkins.

 “I told them to just have fun with it; I even suggested maybe it could be a picture of their ex. Don’t just say, ‘I don’t do animals so I’m not going to participate.’ If you can make the title work, it’s great. We just want artists to enjoy themselves.”

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Gallery Q’s current show is Cultural Fusion

“We weren’t sure what we’d get, but we have the goal of trying to accumulate the kind of art that is associated with the words in the title,” said Atkins. They needn’t have worried. Pieces came in from a variety of artists. 

Cultural Fusion is not just nationality,” said Atkins. “There are watercolors that had to do with artists’ perceptions of their culture and jewelry with different cultural influences. A Saudi-Arabian artist submitted digital art with bold, bright Middle Eastern symbols. It’s a wonderful piece that would fit in many shows, and we’re thrilled to have it in ours.” 

Gallery Q Wanda

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Photo by Bill Atkins   

The textile work by Wanda Matjes is part of the current “Cultural Fusion” show on exhibit at Gallery Q. The show runs until October 5. 

The show’s title even inspired local textile artist Wanda Matjes to submit an elaborate wrapping vest she had created for a trip to China in 2008. 

“The designs were traditional Chinese,” she explained of the images she stitched and painted, including the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. But underneath the panels, there is also a rendering of the Great Wall – just because she didn’t want to leave part of the clothing blank.

“It’s all rather complicated and put on with interchangeable tabs, but it’s just kind of fun to bring these kinds of things to a gallery and have them displayed. It is a piece of clothing, but it is also a piece of art.”