Paso gets pair of galleries downtown

Two new art galleries have opened next to one another in Paso Robles’ downtown — a significant addition to the arts community that has revolved mostly around the Studios on the Park artist workspaces and showroom nearby.

Vale Fine Art opened in July at 619 12th St., and Pierce Modern Gallery opened in August at 617 12th St. Their openings followed the addition of Dave Evers Design Studio on Park Street in May.

“This is one of the few industries where you can be right next door to each other and there’s no competition,” said Rachel Eckert, one of Pierce Modern’s directors. That is because each art piece is original and the galleries share foot traffic.

Both were opened by out-of-towners charmed by Paso Robles’ downtown restaurants and wine culture who saw an opportunity for the city to become an arts destination as well.

“When I’m on vacation, I like to go to galleries. It’s part of an escape,” said Pierce Modern’s owner, Jeffrey R. Pierce, an art collector and business and technology consultant from Palm Springs.

Eckert and Giuseppe Bellissima run the daily operations of Pierce Modern’s 2,000-square-foot showroom. Its 17 contemporary artists, who come from California and the West, make colorful works ranging from abstraction to edgy representation.

Pierce said that with prices starting at less than $1,000, sales are aimed at both locals and tourists.

As for Madeline Vale, she moved to Paso Robles one year ago for its restaurants and pastoral feel after working as an art representative and actress for many years.

When she arrived, “There wasn’t an art gallery I’d like to go to,” Vale said. “But Studios on the Park encouraged me. This town has a desire for culture and the arts.”

She opened Vale Fine Art, which features a 1,300-square-foot showroom for both figurative and abstract work by sculptors and painters. The grand opening is set for Sept. 24.

Both gallery owners are pleased to have made sales already and are looking to represent more local artists.

“Fine art goes hand in hand with fine wine and restaurants tourists are coming downtown asking, ‘Where’s the art?’— and they’re finding it,” Eckert said. “We’re hoping that someone will step up to the plate and open another gallery.”