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La Playa Gallery loves to support San Diego art students and their studies. Local artist and graduate student, Krista Schumacher, asked to interview our curator, Erica Putis, and wrote a fantastic article about La Playa Gallery for one of her classes. ​


La Playa Gallery                                   
La Playa Gallery: La Jolla’s Community Gem

La Jolla, California
By: Krista Schumacher
Website: https://www.kristaschumacherart.com/community-study-project

La Playa Gallery, located in La Jolla Shores, CA, is a hidden gem fostering culture and art in our community. The quaint gallery is nestled along the bustling boulevard, Avenida de la Playa, a street known to tourists around the world. Among the kayak rental stores, Italian restaurants, and coffee shops adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, you will find La Playa Gallery, a gallery which holds an unwavering commitment to supporting local artists in San Diego. From hosting numerous thematic exhibitions throughout the year, to their artist-in-residence program, the gallery is a moving force in ensuring that the voices of artists are heard and supported.

The dynamic players behind this growing gallery are curator, Erica Putis, and owners, Vaughn and Terrie Woods, who opened the gallery in 2013. The team of three has worked together to develop the gallery into the success it is today. As La Playa Gallery continues to advance as a local creative hub, connecting artists and art patrons alike, it is important to recognize the vital role galleries play in our community. Not only does the gallery provide opportunities for local artists to sell their work, but they are an essential piece of what curator, Erica Putis, calls the “circle of creativity” (Putis, 2018). Galleries provide a venue for artists to connect with collectors. When an artist sells their work, it allows for them to create new works, and continue to grow and develop their creativity, and hence, continuing the circle of creativity.

The role of La Playa Gallery is two-fold: to represent local artists and to educate the community about art. La Playa Gallery hosts eight thematic exhibitions during the year, alternating between solo and group exhibitions. Through the various exhibitions, the gallery works with over 20 artists per year. The gallery also has an online gallery platform via their website. The online gallery represents a number of artists that they have worked with during the course of the year. Depending on the type of exhibition, artists typically showcase between 5-10 pieces of their work. The gallery also permanently represents a select group of jewelers. The works are displayed in a professional manner, with gallery lighting, informational labels about each of the works, and display of the artist biography and statement. Artists who are interested in exhibiting with La Playa Gallery can send their portfolio to laplayagallery@gmail.com to be considered for selection.

The upcoming exhibition features the work of local artist, Kay Kaplan. The exhibition is called, “A Wondrous Perspective,” and focuses on the bold, confident, and vivid oil painting style of Kaplan (“La Playa Gallery,” 2018). With every exhibition, La Playa Gallery hosts an opening, and all are welcome to attend. These openings are typically held on Friday evenings and attract a large number of attendees. The receptions provide the opportunity for patrons to talk about the art with the artist and the curator. Through using their email list, marketing online, and posting the event in the local newspaper, locals are made aware of the upcoming exhibitions at La Playa Gallery.  The next artist opening will be for Kay Kaplan on November 30th from 5-8 P.M.

In addition to their thematic exhibitions, La Playa Gallery also has an artist-in-residence program. This residency is awarded to one local artist from San Diego each year. It provides the artist with the opportunity for a month-long solo exhibition while creating their artwork at the gallery. The artist can choose to create works in front of the gallery doors on the sidewalk. The gallery expects the artist to spend 10-30 hours per week on site, creating their work while interacting with the community (“La Playa Gallery,” 2018). By doing so, the artist is engaging the public in the creative process. The artist-in-residence program is a unique program which helps cultivate community art education and appreciation. For art enthusiasts, it is an excellent way to see the artistic process in action.

As their community spotlight continues to magnify, the gallery is planning to offer art classes taught by local artists in 2019. Artists from the community can contact La Playa Gallery if they are interested in proposing a class idea. The gallery also has plans to host an art fair in the future. The gallery stated that they are still working out the details of these upcoming events.

La Playa Gallery values making visitors feel welcomed and comfortable in the gallery setting. Putis makes people understand that art is “not about what is ‘good’ to everyone else or by some kind of standard. It’s what moves you and makes you feel something.” (Putis, 2018)  She teaches viewers that by erasing their preexisting thoughts about what is ‘good’ art, viewers can focus on art that personally moves them. Then, the viewers can make meaningful connections with the artwork. The role of the curator and the gallery, is “bringing art to the public, and the education of viewing art in an accessible way” (Putis, 2018). As Putis discusses, “Art education is so important. Not just teaching how to create art, but how to relate to it in a non-class setting.” (Putis, 2018) Art galleries, through exhibiting the work of local artists, play a valuable role in educating viewers about art.

The role of the curator, Erica Putis, is all-encompassing. Not only does she educate viewers about the art being exhibited, she also runs the behind-the-scenes operations. Putis works with the gallery owners to design their various thematic exhibitions and handles daily responsibilities such as contracts, online marketing, sales and much more. She strives to market and promote the artists so they can be successful during their exhibitions at the gallery. She creates promotional videos for social media, arranges studio visits with the artists, and truly seeks to understand the artist and their artwork.

Running a gallery is like running a small business, with many twists and turns and inescapable challenges along the way. Putis expressed that the biggest challenge is continuing to communicate to people how important art is and why collecting art is important.  Among the inevitable challenges, are the numerous successes the gallery has experienced. The gallery continues to increase the number of exhibitions they host each year, and make their mark in the art scene of San Diego. The most notable moments for the gallery are, “when a patron purchases a piece of art, that ensures the artist can continue to create amazing work and we can continue to promote it for them.” (Putis, 2018) With a loyal following, and the high volume of tourists passing by the gallery each day, La Playa Gallery has proven to be a successful gallery for artists.

La Playa Gallery houses culture in our community. It provides an essential local hub, where artists and art enthusiasts can connect. By enriching our community through art education, La Playa Gallery upholds an important responsibility in preserving creative expression. La Playa Gallery is, without a doubt, a major player in the art-focused reputation of La Jolla and San Diego. 
La Playa Gallery. (2018). La Playa Gallery. Retrieved from https://www.laplayagallery.com
Putis, E. (2018, November 11). Interview