1130 Pine Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446
March 12, 2019

SLO County isn't a fine-art desert. Here's where you can experience world-class art

The Cambrian

SLO County isn't a fine-art desert. Here's where you can experience world-class art

By Patrick Dennis

I am an artist and I’ve been working…

Exposure to world-class artwork on California’s Central Coast may at times seem limited due to our relative geographic isolation. Located exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco with miles of mostly unspoiled coastline, our communities offer rare and meaningful convalescence to the faster paced urban environments to our north and south. But that doesn’t mean we’re languishing in an artistic wasteland. Far from it! There are hidden artistic gems to be found and it is truly a pleasure to expose them for your indulgence.

Two years ago, I reported on an architect/artist who lives in Cambria by the name of Marshall Lewis. He has had a great deal of success both as the owner of an architectural firm in Los Angeles and as an artist whose works reflect his unique perspective.

Using oils on wood panels, he incorporates architectural embellishments into three-dimensional geometric, thought-provoking compositions that maintain his signature techniques.

Watching Lewis’ thoughtful choices of materials, colors and patterns to create abstract expressions is a lesson in creative contemplation. The influence of his architectural skills is evident.

On April 6-27, my gallery will host a three-week exhibition showing selections of his world-class works spanning nearly 40 years. It’s an honor to showcase these works and exciting to see the resurgence of appreciation for a distinctly ‘70s vibe. We’ll fete Lewis with fine hors d’oeuvres, wine and music at the opening reception that is free to attend.

There is a variety of art to discover among the lower-key art centers between Santa Barbara and Big Sur, and it’s not just an overabundance of beach scenes and shell mirrors. The slower pace (read: less traffic) offers the opportunity to investigate, discover and reflect without being overwhelmed.

Here are a few regional gems to discover along the Central Coast:
This diminutive coastal community was once known as a thriving artist enclave. While there are fewer independent galleries than during the “boom years,” there are still several stops worth noting.
1. Patricia Griffin Studios — Engaging and imaginative ceramics created on-site by the artist.
2. Riccardo Spizzamiglio — “Moving” metal sculptures created on-site by the artist.
3. Mission Gallery — Specializing in etchings, engraving, works on paper, this shop also hosts visiting artists and demonstrations.
4. Moonstone Redwood Gallery — Exotic artisan woodwork by a master craftsman.
A few more unique stops include: Painted Lily — a semi-cooperative space featuring photography by Skip Moss; Cambria Center for the Arts — a membership-based exhibition and learning center with theatrical performances; Melanie Sylvester — longtime resident solo gallery artist; and Casa de Oro Jewelry — an independent jewelry designer with a personal touch.

Morro Bay
Famous for its iconic rock, saltwater marshes and trails, this town is nestled in a seaport village that attracts tourists as well as a wide variety of sea life.
1. Morro Bay Art Center — This unassuming venue exhibits local and international works.
2. Fiona Bleu/Rowan Chase — Regional works by local artists plus Chase’s highly popular lighting and painted shades.
3. Morro Bay Art in the Park — Memorial Day and Labor day weekend each year featuring a wide variety of artists from the region.
Besides the great fun of investigating the many thrift shops along Morro Bay Boulevard, stop in at: Gallery at Marina Square — fine art in a wide range; Seven Sisters Gallery — artisan jewelry with a distinctly pacific flair.

Paso Robles
Recently hailed as the “new Napa,” this fertile agricultural valley is also known for almonds, olive oil and orchards. Artwork may have seen a slower growth than the surge of new vineyards, but there are steadily establishing galleries and studios that offer gathering posts for emerging talent.
1. Studios on the Park — This unique former warehouse now offers studio and exhibition space including six working studios and four galleries. I especially recommend the western watercolors by Don Weller.
2. Park Street Gallery — The “new kid on the block” is showing some serious, but conservative works, plus hosting a monthly reception.
3. Dale Evers Fine Art Gallery — Evers’ sculptures have been an artistic staple in this region for years, innovatively fusing glass, bronze and steel.
Many wineries in this region also showcase art in their tasting rooms, and that list is growing.

Cayucos and Atascadero are less art-centric, but two stops worth noting are the Cayucos Art Association, where you’ll find smaller, priced-right local craft and the art of Marie Ramey in Atascadero.
We’ll save the lively discoveries in San Luis Obispo for another day because the list of hotspots in this college town would simply be too long!

California’s Central Coast is a respite from urban density but arts and opportunities for artists remain entrenched in the fabric of the community, making each town and village a little more colorful.

Upcoming events
April 6–27
Patrick Gallery
815 Main Street, Cambria

“Rediscovering Marshall Lewis” — an exhibition of architect/artist works spanning forty years. Opening reception 5-8 p.m. April 6, free to attend.
March 22–May 12
San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
1010 Broad St., San Luis Obispo

“Bruce Everett – A Change of Scenery” – a compendium of paintings by a master landscape artist.
Through April 1
Morro Bay Art Center
835 Main Street, Morro Bay
“Aquarius & Light the Way” — a juried, Pacific regional water media exhibition featuring contemporary West Coast artworks.

Patrick Dennis is an artist living in Cambria. He owns Working Artist Studio/Patrick Gallery in the West Village and a very large dog named Bella. For more information, visit


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