In the Mission Mall, nestled between the shaded creek walkway and downtown Higuera Street, one will find the quaint Just Looking Gallery. The gallery, which opened in 1984, serves as one of the leading art exhibits in San Luis Obispo.
The pinnacle of Just Looking Gallery’s success has been tied to world renown artist Steve Thomas. Famous for his vintage art-deco style, Thomas has created artwork for Star Wars, Disney, Star Trek, Hasbro and Marvel.
When Just Looking Gallery originally connected with Thomas, it commissioned the retro artist to do a series of paintings displaying local Central Coast landmarks like Bishop’s Peak and Morro Rock. Following the sales of Thomas’ series, Just Looking Gallery received more traffic from the artist than it had in the 30 years prior.
Within the past year, Cal Poly reached out to Just Looking Gallery, hoping to auction one of Thomas’ Central Coast pieces for a baseball fundraiser. Upon the request, the gallery encouraged Thomas to create a Cal Poly original art-deco piece.
Since its release within the past two months, the Cal Poly print has been the most successful seller in Steve Thomas’ Central Coast series.
Ken McGavin, art director at Just Looking Gallery, attributes the success of this piece to the “nostalgia-like quality” that appeals within Thomas’ works.
“There’s something about San Luis that ends up owning a bit of your heart,” McGavin said, explaining the sentiment shared by many of the Cal Poly alumni interested in the piece.
The unique connection Thomas’ Cal Poly print has to students is that it was created for Cal Poly. In fact, upon creation of the newest piece in the series, students in the Cal Poly journalism department were recruited to serve as a public relations marketing team for the art series. The students are currently working with the Cal Poly Alumni Association to promote the piece.
The Cal Poly print is aimed to connect alumni to the nostalgia of their time at the university, and to encourage student involvement in arts marketing. The prints are on display and available for sale in three different sizes. To purchase a print, visit Just Looking Gallery or the Cal Poly bookstore.
“The art in your home should tell your story,” McGavin said. “And for me, there’s nothing that tells the story of the Central Coast and my experience as an alum at Cal Poly more than Steve Thomas’ artwork.”