Although the art scene in San Luis Obispo isn’t quite comparable to that of San Francisco or Los Angeles, art is indeed prolific and alive in our small haven of a town. SLO offers galleries, museums, music venues and cafés featuring live music and artwork. The Cal Poly campus has its own art gallery as well, which has hosted a number of art legends such as artist Geoff McFetridge and photographer Santi Visalli. So how can a broke college student view local masterpieces without sacrificing their daily $4 Starbucks vanilla latté? Many of these places are either free, offer student discounts or charge a small cover. Let’s explore a few:
Located at 1010 Broad Street, The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) is a contemporary (1930s to now) museum that shows California-centric art shows, assistant director Muara Johnston said. The McMeen Gallery is reserved for local artists, however, the other two — the Gray Wing and First Gallery — can be major shows of anyone from California, she said.
The museum hosts events such as movie showings from local film directors, live paintings and dance performances, Johnston said.
SLOMA is also the known starting point for Art After Dark, an event taking place on the first Friday of every month, in which participating art galleries, shops and cafés keep their doors open a little later for new art exhibits, music and wine.
“We’re sort of ground zero for Art after Dark,” Johnston said.
But around nine to ten p.m. after Art After Dark has ceased, Johnston said the younger crowd comes out to the SLOMA for sub-event “Art After Art After Dark” where young people transform a room in SLOMA in any way they want, from an ’80s prom dance party to a live art installment.
Anything in the McMeen gallery is almost always for sale, Johnston said. Though it’s a gallery, Johnston said the purpose of SLOMA is not to sell art but to show the highest quality and to educate.
SLOMA offers students many discounts. Any class a student wishes to take is greatly discounted and the lectures are free, Johnston said. During the first month of the school year, students can get two memberships for the price of one.
“I hope people will come because they want to, not because they have to,” Johnston said.
The museum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Tuesdays.
Art Central Art Supply and Gallery
Art Central Art Supply and Gallery (Art Central) displays all sorts of art works, sales associate and graphic communication junior Logan Spittler said. This Monterey Street shop — located near the intersection of Monterey and Johnson Streets — features multiple media, oil acoustics, paintings in wax, silk painters and ceramics.
The gallery showing changes every month, he said. August’s show was called The Vine and the Wine featuring any art that had to do with wine. September’s show is called the “Best of” show, which will be judged by the people who come to see it. Everyone can throw in artwork, Spittler said, and everyone who comes judges the pieces. The winner gets a cash price. Spittler said the featured show will have a $10 to $15 entry fee.
Students receive a 15 percent discount on everything in the store, Spittler said. Coupons of 20 to 25 percent off are available during both Cuesta’s and Cal Poly’s back-to-school time period, he said.
Cal Poly University Art Gallery
Cal Poly University Art Gallery coordinator Jeff Van Kleek puts on all the shows in the gallery throughout the year. He said the gallery hosts three or four international and national art shows. Located in the Walter F. Dexter building, the gallery has mostly outside shows but some are from Cal Poly, especially in the spring, he said.
The gallery tries to show what the art and design department offers, Kleek said. Examples include photography, studio art and graphic design, he said.
There is no cover charge for the gallery. According to Kleek, visual art is tough to get people interested into, so the shows are free. The gallery also holds a few workshops for students for free. Kleek said all the freshmen will see the gallery during Week of Welcome (WOW).
“The more art you see the better,” he said.
The mission of the gallery is to spur and grow creative thinking, to challenge viewers to dig for a deeper meaning and see what the artist is talking about, Kleek said.
“If people are really interested we’d sell it, but it’s not the mission of the gallery,” Kleek said. “Students and professors have sold out of the gallery before, though.”
Artists wanting to be featured send their information to Kleek, or students will bring him ideas, he said. He said the gallery is made up of faculty to help steer and drive it. They have meetings to pick an artist, he said.
The list for the upcoming exhibits are posted on the gallery’s website, Kleek said. The first show for the 2012-13 season is Ana Sorrano, an artist from Los Angeles, beginning Sept. 28 and lasting until Nov. 2. She will be doing installation sculpture, meaning she will be building her show in the gallery during the first week of school.
“People can stop by and see what she’s working on,” Kleek said.
The Kreuzberg, CA café doesn’t just serve coffee, they’re a free music venue as well. Every Tuesday night the café hosts an artist from the “Songwriters at Play” series. They also host other musicians for night shows.
Kreuzberg, CA’s conference room also doubles as a gallery room, general manager Grace Miller said. The café, which sits on Higuera Street, features one artist every month and participates in the “Art After Dark” event.
“There’s a lot of people walking around during Art After Dark,” Miller said. “It’s nice to be a stop on their route.”
The café shows all genres of artwork in its gallery room, Miller said. It also show locally-made clothing items on their walls, she said. August’s artist, Mark Gzadvinskas, did fine art photography.
Hillbert Lockwood shows his graffiti-style art during the month of Sept. The café charges no commission if an artist should sell one of their works.
Linnea’s Café celebrates its 28th year this year. Owner Marianne Orme bought the café five years ago to keep it around in San Luis Obispo.
The café, located just off Higuera Street on Garden Street, has an artistic garden outside and also functions as a music venue. The café also shows a different featured artist every month.
“It’s a very traditional thing for a coffee shop to do,” Orme said. Linnea’s only shows local artists, and the artist has to do most of the work like hanging their pieces. Linnea’s café takes 10 percent commission if an artist sells a piece.
“I believe an artist should be paid,” Orme said.
She said they show a variety of artwork including mixed media, photographers and sculptures, however, she chooses things that are nice to look at while in a food environment. Orme said she likes bright, cheery and odd. She said she’s open to anyone’s crazy idea.
“I like to be a little different,” Orme said. “I like odd.”
Linnea’s Café participates in “Art After Dark” as well, which Orme called a fun night. She said it’s a very social event—noting the artwork, wine and cheese tastings—and a good way to get to know the town.
“You can also get free wine if you’re over 21,” Orme said.
During the month of December the café hosts a group show that’s open to anyone and everyone, Orme said. Everyone brings in two pieces of artwork and they all hang it on the wall the same night, she said. The only requirement is that the artwork sells for under $100, because the event is about buying art for the holidays. One hundred percent of the commission goes to the artist that month.
“I feel like I have this space for a reason,” Orme said. “I offer it for art shows, weddings and funerals. I’m very fortunate.”