Los Altos has seen changes aplenty over the past 50 years, but Gallery 9 has remained true to its mission as members celebrate the art gallery’s golden anniversary this year. It continues, as it did in 1970, to provide a supportive place for local artists to showcase and sell their work.
The gallery and its milestone are the subject of a special exhibition, “Gallery 9: Celebrating Art in Los Altos,” set to open Jan. 30 and run through March 8 at the Los Altos History Museum. The exhibition will offer an overview of Gallery 9 members’ work across a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics and jewelry.
Launched in Menlo Park by a group of nine women artists, Gallery 9 moved to its current location at 143 Main St. in downtown Los Altos in 1973. A cooperative owned and operated by the artists themselves, the gallery offered its members a space to learn from each other.
When Cecilia Mases, who became a member in 2017, realized the gallery was turning 50, she wanted members to do something to celebrate.
“Since joining, I have really learned a lot from this community of artists, who are so positive and encouraging,” Mases said. “I was interested in the history of the gallery, how it has developed over the last 50 years, and how it continues to be successful.”
Jan Meyer, who joined the gallery in 1975 and returned after 10 years away, said collaborating with the museum in preparing for the exhibition “made us much more aware of ourselves.”
Meyer, perhaps best known for her mural work throughout downtown Los Altos, recalled other downtown galleries that have come and gone while Gallery 9 remained. She attributed its longevity to “the will of the artists wanting to show their work.”
Evolving with the times
Gallery 9 has adapted to changing times – and attitudes – along the way. Carol Hake, who joined in 1973, recalled the resistance she encountered when she wanted to showcase her oil paintings. Artists at the time were doing “works on paper” – drawings and etchings.
“We’ve added a lot more men,” Meyer said. “I think the gallery is made up of people doing other things as well as painting.”
Ethnic diversity also is evident among current gallery members, who hail from Japan, Israel, Norway and Sweden.
The emergence of digital technology and art with the use of an iPad also has been a change, said Judi Keyani, a 22-year Gallery 9 member.
Mases said the infusion of new members and their enthusiasm has contributed to Gallery 9’s success.
“There are always new members, new kinds of art,” she said. “I’ve learned how to sell art, how to promote myself.”
The gallery experience spurs members to get serious about their art, Keyani said. Members hold monthly meetings to learn how to hang their works and prepare for shows.
“You need inspiration, but you also need to work,” Mases said. “When you need to bring in your art by Monday, you need that push (to finish your work).”
Artists would love more people visiting the gallery. Meyer recalled a time when more visitors would drop by and young families would buy artwork at the gallery for their homes.
“People used to walk the downtown more,” she said.
Still, the primary motivation of participating artists seems to be the love of creating and showing work – and encouragement from other artists.
“There’s a solitary existence to being an artist,” Hake said. “It’s nice to be part of this family.”
According to Amy Ellison, curator for the History Museum exhibition, Los Altos has long been a haven for artists, actively supporting public arts initiatives and arts education programs.
“Gallery 9 is a vital part of our community,” she said. “We look forward to hosting a 50-year retrospective of the gallery’s creative output.”
The museum has scheduled additional events in conjunction with the Gallery 9 exhibition.
• An opening reception is set for 2-5 p.m. Feb. 2.
• Visitors can meet the artists and learn about their processes and inspiration 6-8 p.m. Feb. 13.
• Los Altos Art Docents will teach basic drawing and painting skills to children 9:30-11 a.m. Feb. 29 for grades 2-3 and 9:30-11 a.m. March 7 for grades 4-6.
The Los Altos History Museum is located at 51 S. San Antonio Road. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is free.
To register for the events and for more information, visit losaltoshistory.org/gallery9.