Focus is on the artists at Grass Valley’s Ellu Gallery
Ryan McVay has been an artist pretty much since he first picked up a pencil. He’s been creating surrealist-style oil paintings since the age of 14 and learned to blow glass at the age of 18.
He moved all over the country — from Oregon to Colorado to Lake Tahoe to Hawaii — chasing his passion for snowboarding and surfing, and working as an artist. He landed in Nevada County about nine years ago.
When he first visited a then-vacant building at 342 Idaho Maryland Road in Grass Valley, he was primarily looking for an art studio with enough room to create large-scale paintings, as well as other works in various mediums. But when he saw the 5,000-square-foot space, he was immediately inspired to do more.
“When I saw this space, I just knew I had to share it,” said McVay, 38. “I knew I had to get ahold of my friends and be like, ‘Hey, if I open this space, will you share your art?’”
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The answer was yes. McVay opened Ellu Gallery a few months ago; the gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with private viewing available by appointment. The space, which does also house McVay’s art studio, showcases the work of McVay and six other artists, including Charles Lowrie, Dean Gelber, James Mulleady, Myqi Harrison, Valeri and Dave Barter.
They’re all artists who create work to which McVay feels a connection; he’s collaborated with many of them in the past.
“I kind of wanted to transition into my own gallery to be able to help out artists that I’ve run into along the way, but who I also really enjoy their work and their art and their style and their story,” McVay said.
McVay said he specifically sought out artists that line up with his personal ethics and vision, those who have diverse backgrounds and a common passion for their work. For many of the artists, Ellu Gallery is the first place they’ve chosen to publicly showcase their art, McVay said.
“It’s kind of a unique opportunity for people to see work that hasn’t been seen by anyone else in the nation or the world,” McVay said.
McVay did significant work on the space to transform it into a gallery, including redoing the floors, giving the space fresh paint, installing custom lighting and building custom barnwood doors to separate the studio and the gallery.
McVay was intentional about creating a gallery that doesn’t appear intimidating, and where patrons can experience the art without necessarily being hounded by a salesperson.
“I’ve been in enough galleries and studios and museums to know what I like, and I just kind of wanted to take that whole pressure off the art world,” McVay said.
He views the gallery as a shared space; he hopes to host public or nonprofit events there free of charge, and is partnering with local businesses on cross-marketing efforts.
He also plans to carve out a social media and blog presence for the gallery, to give the community a look at who the gallery-featured artists are, and their creative processes.
“They’re always doing something that you want to hear about,” McVay said. “It’s not just about the piece, it’s about the story behind it.”
The gallery was founded on simple philosophy, McVay said — that art should be experienced.
“I want to just keep people a little more involved and active in the arts, and not have it be just such a dry thing, but interactive and experiential, make people feel like they’re a part of it,” he said.
As the gallery continues to evolve, McVay envisions creating a space within the building to showcase local artists, as well as up-and-coming artists from around the country and globe.
He said that even as the gallery grows, he wants its focus to remain firmly on showcasing innovative art from a variety of artists. He never considered having his work be the only art to be showcased in the gallery.
“Trying to hold space on your own doesn’t seem to be very fun,” McVay said. “I would rather just be one of the artists.”
To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.
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