Those who knew it as the old JC Penney building will not recognize anything of its retail past.
The new California State University, Stanislaus, Art Space on Main showcases original hardwood floors and the small brick of an earlier century. Original joists frame the interior glass doors.
The university cuts the ribbon for the new gallery and studio Friday evening.
The event coincides with Stanislaus State Warriors Night at the Turlock Certified Farmers Market, which takes place on the street outside the newly renovated building at West Main and Broadway.
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The casual classic vibe fits well with the trendy restaurants and the brick sidewalks of today’s Main Street, providing another draw to the gradual renaissance seen downtown over the past year or so.
“Close your eyes and you can think you’re in Santa Monica,” said Stanislaus State Art Gallery Director Dean De Cocker. Main Street used to lean east, he noted, “but now there’s this whole, long wonderful street. It’s 9 p.m. and there are still people walking up and down.”
Visitors will see one of De Cocker’s sculptures, an elegant swoop of metal and cardboard cones, as they enter the gallery, part of a faculty exhibition called Art Faculty on Main that will be in place until mid-October. Alumni shows and visiting artist exhibits are also planned, with a showcase of senior students’ art in the spring.
Eight instructors have their works at the gallery premiere. De Cocker said he asked colleagues to bring two to three pieces made within the past two years. “It’s pretty diverse,” he said.
That diversity, he hopes, will help kids see potential and be inspired to create their own work, he said. “As a young person, you don’t know what you want to do,” De Cocker said, noting he wanted to be a kindergarten teacher until he saw an artist’s studio while in college.
The gallery forms the first of three main spaces in the building. The second, the Building Imagination Center, will have screens with the electronic art of Jessica Gomula-Kruzic, professor of time-based media.
The center will initially show existing artwork, Gomula-Kruzic said. University students also will work on projects there and in the large studio space in the back portion of the building.
“This art space is another way for us to go out to the community and bring the community in to us,” Gomula-Kruzic said.
Art major Victoria Johnson said she’ll bring a large tarp to work on her mixed media pieces. “I do most my work on the floor,” she said. “But I can see my friends bringing down easels and tables.”
Today’s Main Street is a welcoming place, she said. “Downtown has really picked up. There’s so many people here. It’s a great opportunity to see students working,” Johnson said.
The studio viewing space also links students with the gallery exposure of working artists, providing insight and training for talented art majors.
“We really see this as a launching pad for students to become professional artists,” De Cocker said. “It’s all a place to learn, which is what’s really exciting.”