BACKGROUND ON THE ATRIUM GALLERY
The Gallery – The Atrium Gallery is located in the Hall of Administration at the Ventura County Government Center complex in Ventura, CA. It spans three floors and some 400 linear feet of display space. The Gallery receives some 3,000 visitors a day (plus employees) who circulate through the Gallery while conducting business Monday through Friday. It is one of the largest galleries in the County and likely receives the most visitors. The Gallery hosts art shows continuously with only one “down” day as a new show is installed. The Gallery is managed with no financial support from the County. All the staffing, installation hardware, and awards are provided by the Arts Council. Work must be broadly appropriate for a public work place. Sales of artwork is coordinated through the Gallery Coordinator.
Mission Statement – “The mission of the gallery is to provide a wide array of visual arts from diverse artists for the community’s enjoyment and education and the artists’ benefit; while coexisting within an active public workplace.”
Operating Philosophy – In keeping with the Gallery’s mission, virtually all of the art exhibits allow artwork from artists in the “Tri-Counties” (Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles). In doing so we enrich the variety of the shows, and demonstrate that local artists are equal to their artist peers in neighboring counties. We welcome established artists, and encourage new and emerging artists, and those who are returning to their art to treat the Gallery as their artistic “home”. Flexibility and accommodation is the operative approach when working with exhibiting artists.
Competitive shows are rarely limited to one medium, e.g. oil painting, but rather encourage all mediums. Therefore, they normally include photographs, oil paintings, stone sculpture, watercolors, fabric arts, assemblage, etc. Any medium that can be wall-hung or free-standing is typically eligible so long as the work is in keeping with the theme of a given show. Curated exhibits, however, may be for focused specific mediums. Free-standing work on the upper floor in curated shows is very limited, but can be accommodated on the main floor.
We encourage participating artists to “own” the gallery by: Contributing show titles and themes; Installing shows; Curating exhibits; Taking on specific gallery tasks such as assembling the show catalog and installing labels; and Serving as show judges. We also strive to have the gallery serve as a laboratory for local arts institutions, their faculty and students. We encourage experimentation and welcome one-off installations within and outside the Gallery on the Government Center campus. Installing public art pieces is a rare opportunity for most artists. Such installations are independent of the programed competitive shows and curated exhibits.
Lastly, we have used the Gallery to make art and artists familiar and welcomed into people’s daily lives. Gallery visitors and office employees have come to appreciate the art and how it humanizes the Administration Building. The art brings smiles to people’s faces. It also provides a memorable backdrop in their wedding photos taken after a civil wedding ceremony a few steps from the Gallery. Making people comfortable with art and the gallery is what prompts new artists to enter artwork in our shows; creates watchful employees who report any problems with artwork; and induces employees to purchase most of the artwork sold in the gallery.
Competitive Shows and Curated Exhibits – Since 2012 we have been programming two distinct exhibit calendars – usually 7 competitive shows on the first two floors and up to 7 curated shows on the upper (4th) floor. A County “Employee Art Show” is our 15th show each year and fills all three floors. When large competitive shows take up all three floors of the gallery, there are no parallel curated exhibits. The shows fit into eight 6-7 week time slots. All shows come down and new ones go up on one hectic Wednesday at the end of an exhibition period. All displayed work can be for sale, but does not have to be. Shows and exhibits are virtually always open to Arts Council members and non-members alike. However, discounts on entry fees and sales commissions are offered to Art Council members.
Entries to competitive shows are typically limited to artists from the “Tri-Counties”. The competitive shows offer prize money for the top three pieces, and honorable mentions receive free entries into a future competitive show. Jurying of work for the shows is free, but a nominal charge of several dollars may be charged eventually to cover the cost of the on-line submission process. Entry fees are only charged for the work juried into the competitive shows.
Artwork for curated exhibits is selected by the exhibit curator and typically there is no cost to the participating artists. Artists in curated exhibits my come from outside the “Tri-Counties” at the curator’s discretion.
Executive Office Art Displays – A step away from the formal gallery walls are public display areas in two executive offices. Staff members from these offices select work from a current show/exhibit and the selected artists are asked if they wish to lend their work for continued display for some 6-7 weeks. Artists appreciate the honor of being selected, the continued exposure of their work, and the prospect of sales.
Development of the Gallery – The General Services Agency (GSA) staff had periodically installed artwork in the Hall of Administration (HOA) during the 1990s, but with budget cuts this function was eventually turned over to the Arts Council in 2001. The Council organized exhibits on an ad hoc basis on the Main Plaza floor for several years, and then began to stage regular exhibits. In 2007 these exhibits expanded to two floors with the arrival of a flood of artwork for one show. Thereafter, the art shows became more frequent; more artists participated; prize money was awarded and the exhibits kept expanding. Through negotiations with GSA the formal gallery area was expanded to include the third floor the HOA and broadened to include the entry-ways and a side hallway on the main floor. In 2016 the GSA installed LED gallery lighting on the upper floor of the Gallery, and plans to slowly up-grade lighting in other areas of the Gallery.