Local Art & Culture

New art studios are changing the way we experience art in South County – making it more accessible while spotlighting artists

Three new studios have opened in South County in the past year: 6th Street Studios & Art Center and Gallery 1202 in downtown Gilroy and Colibri Gallery in downtown Morgan Hill. They highlight artists’ work with rotating exhibits and offer art workshops for residents—all with the goal of transforming South County into an “art destination.”

“It has so much potential,” said Emily McEwan-Upright, founder of Gallery 1202 and 6th Street Studios. “We have so many artists in so many forms in this area. I think as long as art opportunities remain accessible and relatable that will create an art hub.”

Highlighting art in an accessible and relatable way is the goal of both 6th Street Studios and Gallery 1202. Gallery 1202 opened in November 2019 in downtown Gilroy with the objective to support marginalized artists from around the world.

“We bring in a lot of art that wouldn’t normally be seen. And we bring up a lot of issues that aren’t usually brought up here,” said McEwan-Upright.

Exhibits showcasing art in multiple mediums, including screen art, 3-D art using upcycled materials, acrylic paint, and paper and fiber, are rotated every six weeks. Around the corner, 6th Street Studios broke ground in January 2021. The non-profit group is entirely staffed with volunteers and aims to keep costs low and programs accessible. It hosts summer art camps for local youths, provides studio and exhibit space for local artists, and has organized free public art events, including the monthly Art Walk.

The Third Friday Art Walk, which is free to attend, has been a popular draw. It’s held in downtown Gilroy every third Friday of the month except January and February.

McEwan-Upright encourages anyone who has thought about sharing their art to participate and for more downtown businesses to join in.

Most recently, the art center created a youth mentorship program, pairing local artists with at-risk youths to create works of art, including a mural on the back of the bowling alley and comic book illustrations.

Colibri Gallery in downtown Morgan Hill, formerly a custom frame shop, has been operating exclusively as a contemporary art gallery since August 2022, exhibiting “fresh, joyful, and authentic artwork from the Bay Area as well as beyond,” said Ellie Honl, director of Colibri Gallery.

“That’s the common theme of all the artwork that we carry,” Honl said. Exhibits of artwork by local and Bay Area artists representing 2D and 3D artwork, textiles, and jewelry, are rotated every two months. The gallery also hosts art workshops, artist receptions, and private events. In addition, it organizes an annual plein air art event where residents can observe featured artists painting local landscapes. Colibri Art and Framing moved to Caputo Drive in Morgan Hill.

Gallery space will soon quadruple with the addition of a multi-use building on Monterey Road in downtown Morgan Hill at the site of the former pop-up park. Long-time South County residents Dan and Kathy McCranie, owners of Colibri Gallery, broke ground on the building last fall. Expected to open late 2023, it will house art displays, events, symposiums, art workshops, and a wine café. The building itself will be a work of art, Honl said, combining sustainable materials and sculptural elements.

“We’re excited to continue our rotating exhibitions and offer more workshops to the community and offer people outside of the community to come and visit as well as continuing some really fun art events,” Honl said.


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