Taking pride in showing diverse artistic styles is what makes the HQ Gallery, now in its fifth year, a favorite of repeat visitors to Benicia.

Located at 333D First Street in the Historic Washington House in the heart of downtown, the HQ Gallery is a collective of emerging and established artists who work in various mediums, including oil, acrylic, and watercolor painting, prints, collage and ceramics, photography and assemblage, mixed media, digital art, needlepoint, and small gift items including art cards and accessories. “Our many out-of-town visitors tell us that they enjoy finding something new, something different, something for everyone in a range of affordable prices, in a warm and friendly environment. We want to be sure our locals know we’re here as well,” says Jean Purnell, one of the gallery’s newer artists. “If you haven’t been in the gallery yet, please visit us!”

Founded in 2015 by artist Susan Street, the gallery took its name from its original location in the Headquarters Building in the Benicia Arsenal District.

“I founded the HQ Gallery because I wanted to encourage new artists and my artist friends to show their work in a public place,” says Street about the gallery’s unique mission. “But after a few years in the Arsenal, we decided we needed walk-in traffic, so we began looking for a downtown location.”  

With the move to First Street in 2017, the gallery has become an active participant with Galleries of First Street, Benicia Main Street, and Arts Benicia, helping to create events that promote the local art scene such as the Art Walk, Benicia Open Studios, and seasonal holiday events. A new show is produced every two months.

“My work is primarily landscape painting plein air in a loose, painterly style. I’m one of only two or three gallery artists who work in oil,” says Purnell, who joined the gallery in January of 2020. The gallery has several talented photographers, including Tibby Lerner, one of HQ’s long-term members. Lerner’s photography is inspired by nature, as well as city and urban landscapes. She has recently been using her original photography to create digital art as well. Barrie Robinson, a founding member, considers herself a “maker” and creates art pieces and assemblages from found objects. These often-whimsical pieces are a way for Robinson to express her unique sense of humor. The works of digital painter Barb Duvall incorporate bright vibrant colors and portray the relationships between animals and humans through their facial expressions. Her works are dye-infused metal. 

The diversity among the twenty or so artists is as intriguing as it is intentional.

Selection criteria for new artists include quality of work as well as consideration of how each artist’s work can add something different to the gallery’s overall presentation of art. The physical size of the gallery allows for about twenty artists to participate, and the gallery is currently accepting applications for new members. 

The HQ Gallery has been careful to follow all required health and safety measures to ensure that visitors can enjoy their time in the gallery, while allowing for social distancing. The restrictions have prompted the artists to develop new means of sharing information about the gallery, including a virtual tour and artist profiles on the website (hqgallery.net), and short videos about each artist on Instagram @hqgallerybenicia. Artists also enjoy setting up an easel on the sidewalk outside the gallery on weekends, when weather permits, and demonstrating their art for the public. They look forward to being able to return to public events, which include opening receptions for new shows, art auctions, art-inspired poetry readings, and other ways of helping visitors engage with art. 

The HQ artists invite you to drop in and see the newest show, installed in early January. Visitors can learn more about HQ’s award-winning artists, upcoming shows, events, and hours of operation through the gallery’s website and Facebook.com/hqgallerybenicia/. Artists interested in learning more about membership can inquire via hqgallery333d@gmail.com.