Galleries Create Vibrant Arts Community on and off Campus

By Andrew Armas, Arts Initiative Story Corps

UC Davis has a rich history of renowned artists teaching at and graduating from the university, but dedication to art is not limited to the campus. Although small in size, the city of Davis has a thriving art scene. The city has numerous art venues with provocative and exciting exhibitions to satisfy your art cravings.

The relationship between the city’s galleries and the campus is mutually beneficial, as Hearne Pardee, professor and chair of the Art Studio Department, explained: “Local galleries play a critical role in Davis. They have brought exhibitions by regionally and nationally known artists, conferences, and opportunities for students and faculty to exhibit their work.”

“Local galleries are often the only place for emerging artists to gain exposure for their work, and the adventurous spirit of the galleries in town has fostered a sense of artistic community,” Pardee added.

Two of the premiere galleries in the city of Davis are the Pence Gallery and the John Natsoulas Center for the Arts. Located in the heart of downtown on D Street, the Pence Gallery has been an integral part of the education of UC Davis art students over three decades. “The Pence Gallery has hosted shows by faculty and by students, and offered faculty the opportunity to curate exhibitions,” said Pardee. “Such opportunities are vital to the exploration of new ideas. The gallery showcases not only California artists but artists from all over the country.”

Also downtown, the Natsoulas gallery on First Street showcases the work of California artists.  In addition to its exhibitions, the Natsoulas hosts many conferences, lectures, and demonstrations in painting and the ceramic arts.

So whether you are looking for a visual adventure, a unique place to spend some time, or even a new place to take a date, there are many installations, both on and off campus, that will leave you wanting more.

At the Pence Gallery, a current show titled Focus on the Figure features eight artists whose work revolves around the figure with a special emphasis in ceramic and painting. The work on display represents a variety of approaches to depicting the human form. The current exhibition at the Natsoulas gallery is entitled 30 Ceramic Sculptors and coincides with the 22nd Annual California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art.

The Pence and Natsoulas galleries are both flagships of the City of Davis ArtAbout, which happens every second Friday. ArtAbout is a monthly art walk that features receptions at businesses and galleries throughout the downtown area. It is a great way to spend a night out while enjoying some hors d’oeuvres and experiencing the many galleries and art culture that the city of Davis has to share.

At the Nelson Gallery, UC Davis’s main art exhibition space, one of the more stirring recent exhibitions, entitled Dreams of the Darkest Night, focuses on the works of photographers Vanessa Marsh and Sean McFarland. Mysterious and dreamlike landscapes inhabit the worlds that McFarland and Marsh create. Renny Pritikin, director of the Nelson Gallery, said of the exhibition: “Experimental photographers of the 21st century reflect the manufactured and psychologically complex nature of images and how our minds interact with them to create our sense of reality.”

At the end of spring quarter, the Nelson becomes the site of the graduating MFA students’ thesis exhibition. The annual show features the eclectic work of the graduating MFA students and offers a slice of what the next generation of artists is working on. This year’s show, entitled You Never Know When I’ll Show You the Never, comprises work from painting and sculpture to video and performance. Giving a broad view of art making, it is a prime place to see cutting edge contemporary art.


Dates for the exhibitions are as follows:

Pence Gallery: Focus on the FigureApril 27-June 1

Natsoulas Gallery:  30 Ceramic Sculptors– April 25-June 2

Davis ArtAbout-Every second Friday in downtown Davis.

Nelson Gallery: 2012 MFA Thesis Exhibition June 8-29