Public Affairs, The California State University

Galleries Connect Campus and Community

by Elizabeth Chapin

With unique off-campus galleries, Fullerton, Humboldt, San Diego and San Marcos are taking arts enrichment and education directly into local communities.

Like their counterparts on campus, the galleries serve as interactive labs for art education and host the work of distinguished faculty, alumni, students and visiting artists. However, the location of these unique venues has a major impact on local cultural and economic growth.

Since CSU Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center was opened in 1994, its downtown Santa Ana neighborhood known as the “Artist’s Village” has experienced an economic and artistic revitalization.

Grand Central Art Director and Chief Curator John Spiak says the facility, which includes numerous exhibition spaces and apartments for grad students in CSUF’s MFA program, is a cultural asset to the community.

“With the rotation of students living here, there’s this infusion of young, creative energy,” Spiak said. “And many stay in the neighborhood after graduation. It boosts the community and economy.”

Humboldt State’s First Street Gallery Director Jack Bentley says the location has been successful in bridging the “town and gown divide” while meeting a need of a small community.

“The gallery exposes the community to art forms previously unavailable in this region,” Bentley said. “Despite our small local population, 24,000 people visit us every year—and the number is growing.”

Bentley added that the facility also provides the ideal learning environment for students in HSU’s art education and gallery curator programs.

The CSU San Marcos Art Gallery located in San Marcos’ Old California Restaurant Row creates a stepping stone to the campus. The venue frequently collaborates with other campus-based programs—most recently partnering with the CSU Institute for Palliative Care for a “Healing through Art” workshop.

“Workshop participants discovered the healing power of art and learned that art can help them cope with emotions caused by difficult life events,” says CSUSM Community Arts Liaison Marilyn Huerte. “They took part in hands-on activities that promoted self-awareness, self-expression, and physical and emotional well-being.”

On-and-off-campus art galleries throughout the CSU offer a variety of enriching partnerships and programs. Visit your nearby campus to take part—or to take in the arts.