Rebuilding arts gallery in wake of Mariposa fire

Sun-Star correspondentNovember 1, 2012 

— In May, the fire that destroyed the beloved Pizza Factory and Pony Expresso coffee shop also consumed the Mariposa County Arts Council gallery and offices.

As a result, valuable works of art are gone, along with three decades of files and historic documents.

One month after the fire, the Arts Council got a new director. Cara Goger stepped in to replace Donna Brownell, who retired from the position.

Besides having both hands full with overseeing the operation of the nonprofit organization, Goger was responsible for resurrecting a new gallery.

Moving into a new space was the first priority. Arrangements were made to occupy the upper level of a local gift shop.

Word was spread for anyone with knowledge of artists connected to the MCAC, whether in the past or at present, to contact Goger.

"The MCAC's gallery committee took on the task of re-establishing the Arts Council's relationship with our artists," Goger explained. They also connected with new artists, and worked on renovating the office and gallery space.

The committee is a volunteer group of local artists and collectors, as well as individuals interested in the gallery. Walls were erected, texturing and painting were done, floors were refinished, an alarm system and new lighting were installed, and display cases were constructed and put into place.

Goger continued, "They poured countless hours of work into creating a lovely modern space for local artists to showcase their work."

Of course, replacing office equipment, retrieving lost information and carrying on with scheduled programs also were high on the priority list.

The Merced County Arts Council donated paper, crayons and chalk so the Arts Council could continue with arts education in the local schools. A local business provided furniture for the offices. And community members were encouraged to obtain memberships, which would help finance the rebuilding efforts.

Now in barely six months' time, the MCAC's Treetop Gallery has announced its grand opening. Located at 5009 Highway 140 on the upper level of Chocolate Soup, the gallery is home to the artwork of more than 20 artists, in a variety of mediums and genres, according to Goger.

The gallery has incorporated Quick Response codes on wall labels, which are linked to artists' Web sites (or Web sites that would help interpret their art). An iPad will be available for check-out to those visitors who do not have a smart touch-screen device.

"I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the breadth of work being done by Treetop's local artists," Goger said.

The gallery's grand opening takes place this weekend, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. today. The public is invited.

For details, call the MCAC at (209) 966-3155 or (800) 903-9936, e-mail, or visit the Web site at

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