The opening night of a show at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center offered artists and guests a rare opportunity to rub elbows Thursday.
The show combines the semiannual “The Really Big Show,” which is made up of established Arbor Gallery artists from the region, with the work of up-and-coming talent. While giving artists a chance to display their work, the show also brings Merced’s relatively small arts community together to meet and share ideas.
One of the upstairs rooms housed the work of Martin Castro, a 24-year-old who studied art at UC Santa Barbara. The Merced native graduated from Merced High in 2008. “I wanted to bring back what I learned,” he said.
Finding other artists in Merced can be a difficult task, he said, but it was important to him to share his influences with people here. So he has spent some time teaching art, especially to children.
Castro’s pieces, including the photo series “Reflective Gaze” and sculpture “Rise and Fall,” tend to be conceptual and experimental. He said he often focuses on identity and hopes people will get what they can from his work.
“That’s what I like doing with my art,” he said. “I like people interacting with my art.”
Other work of his on display used cloth, a tie-dye process and bleach.
Joey Essig, the Merced County Arts Council operations director, said group shows tend to draw people to the downtown art center so that newer artists get better exposure to crowds. At the same time, artists get to mingle, which can help spark ideas within the community, he said.
With several paintings hanging from the walls of the center’s main floor, Sue Cauwels’ ocean-themed pieces were her contribution to the group show. “I just love the water,” the 51-year-old said. “I can’t get enough.”
Her works, such as “Bean Hollow” and “Night Surf,” document the California coastline and the way light dances off of the waves. She said she is most interested in that light, as well as the action and violence behind the crashing water.
Cauwels, who lives in Atwater, said being a part of a show at least once in each of the last seven years has helped her expand as an artist. “It makes me grow a little bit more as an artist, just sticking my work out there,” she said.
Scores of paintings, photos, sculptures and other work are on display throughout the center.
Entrance is free. The exhibit runs through Jan. 9.