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Optimism among gallery owners

  • Christie Marks, right, hosts a show for artist Alejandro Salazar at the Christie Marks Gallery in Healdsburg on Saturday, June 28, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Everyone expects new growth in the spring and summer, but it’s not only nature that’s blooming. The Sonoma County visual arts scene shows signs of new life, too, with more than half a dozen new art galleries opening so far this year.

New spots for art lovers are popping up all over. The Christie Marks Fine Art Gallery and the Arena Gallery Fine Art and Design Gallery, both in Healdsburg, and the Chroma Gallery in Santa Rosa all opened in March. They were followed by the Icehouse Gallery in Petaluma in April.

The C14 Contemporary Arts gallery in Sebastopol opened its first show in May, and so did the Fulton X Gallery in the Fulton Crossing collective, just north of Santa Rosa.

In addition to new galleries, there has been some movement among established ones. After four years in Petaluma, the Calabi Gallery opened in a new space on Tenth Street in Santa Rosa in March. The Paul Mahder Gallery of San Francisco opened with an exhibit of art by John Lennon in late June at its new location in Healdsburg.

The new openings shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a boom, warned Dennis Calabi, owner of the Calabi Gallery.

“A lot of galleries are opening, but a lot more have closed. It’s a difficult market,” Calabi said. “But I handle all media and styles. The only common factor is that I have to love the art to show it, and my tastes are broad.”

Gallery owners still see cause for optimism, particularly with the growth of national and international wine tourism in Sonoma County.

“Possibly, the economic climate has changed,” said Simmon Factor, co-owner with his wife, Robin, of the Chroma Gallery in Santa Rosa’s A Street arts district. “Art is selling again, I believe.”

Several of the gallery owners have backgrounds that include both art and business. The Factors owned the Village Art Supply store in Montgomery Village until they sold it two years ago. Calabi has specialized in art conservation and restoration for the past 45 years.

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