Owning an art gallery in a pandemic, or running just about any business or nonprofit over the past nearly three years, for that matter, has been incredibly difficult.
But in many cases, there have been rays of hope throughout as well, and Mill Valley’s major art galleries are leveraging some of that sunshine, despite long stretches of being unable to welcome art lovers safely into their spaces to engaged with the arts.
A collective quartet of renowned local galleries – Seager/Gray Gallery, Desta Gallery, Kim Eagles-Smith Gallery and Robert Green Fine Arts – have launched the Mill Valley Art Dealers Association to raise our community’s profile as an arts destination.
Eagles-Smith, who has lived in Mill Valley for 45 years and moved his eponymous gallery from San Francisco to Mill Valley in 2019, says the 94941 is ready for the spotlight. “The thing I was most concerned about when I moved my gallery here is whether my following would stick with me, and they have supported me throughout this pandemic,” he says.
The latest reminder came last month, when he hosted Susan Grossman’s “Country/City: Coastal Villages and Urbanscapes” in late 2021, with art lovers flying in for a show that snuck in right after the delta variant receded and right before the omicron variant arrived. “I sold half the show,” he says.
When Emebet Korn moved to San Anselmo more than 20 years ago, she dreamed of opening a gallery in town. And around eight years ago, she did just that and opened Desta Gallery in San Anselmo — the name means joy in Amharic, the Ethiopian-born Korn’s native language. Then, in the middle of the pandemic, she reopened it in Mill Valley and continued her mission to showcase contemporary art as well as foster a community. “It’s important to bring joy to people’s lives, especially through art,” Korn says. As part of the MVADA, she says, “Each of the galleries put serious effort into showing great art, creating a fantastic opportunity for art collectors and enthusiasts to explore.”
Donna Seager, whose gallery has become widely known for acclaimed exhibitions built around creative mediums, particularly its annual Art of the Book exhibit, says the three aforementioned galleries, coupled with Green’s gallery, which represents artists who helped form the first truly American art style – Abstract Expressionism – “gives us such a broad spectrum of artwork to draw on. Not only does it not hurt us but it brings a high level of art collector that visits bonafide great galleries.”
“It’s imperative to show work you’re passionate about,” Green says. This is “an opportunity for us to support each other by collaborating to attract art lovers and collectors and help them to discover all that Mill Valley has to offer.”
“I know of others who would like to come here too, for the same reasons that I came here – we’re constantly working on that,” Eagles-Smith says. “The goal of making Mill Valley an art destination is so that people will come here and make a day of it, not just going to the galleries but also to patronize the great restaurants and the other merchants we have in town and celebrating our rich history of the performing arts “