As a relative newcomer to Benicia’s long-time arts community, the Arata Art Gallery reaches out beyond the region with a roster of both local and nationally known artists. Opened in November 2018 at 637 First Street, the gallery is owned by artist and businesswoman Geraldine Arata and husband John Pruett, who moved to Benicia in 2016. When the prime downtown retail space became available, Arata and Pruett saw it as an opportunity to connect with their newly adopted community, just as they had done in San Francisco, where they first opened the Arata Art Gallery in 2009.
Located in the heart of North Beach, the gallery was a nexus for wonderful relationships with local artists and residents. But the 90-minute commute via Bart from their home in Dublin and the expenses of the city eventually prompted the couple to consider other opportunities. A short commute, Benicia’s artist community, and the friendliness of the town made a move to Benicia attractive, and the couple relocated. “We were looking for a similar experience, and we got a real sense of community here. And the gallery is only a mile from our house,” said Arata.
The gallery exhibits painting, prints, photography, ceramics, jewelry, glass and other artisan items selected from its roster of about 25 artists. “There were a lot of art venues in Benicia already, and a number of local artists show their work at more than one of these galleries,” comments Arata. “We’re also committed to showing the work of local artists, but in addition, we have a larger reach to artists from outside the community, both established and emerging, and we can appeal to larger audiences.”
The gallery’s roster includes local artists such as Terry Hughes and Jeffrey Tover, San Francisco area artists who stayed with Arata after the relocation, and nationally known artists such as Nancy Balmert of Houston, and Greg Creason of New Orleans. The works of Suisun Valley resident Mary Aiu, a fine art photographer known for her ethereal photographs of beautiful horses in motion, are being featured in May (learn more at http://maryaiu.com/)
Arata traces her path in art back to her artist mother, who passed away when she was young. “I gravitated toward art to connect with her, and never considered doing anything else.” Arata completed a bachelor’s degree in art at San Francisco State University, followed by an MFA in 2007 at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco. “I’ve always loved to paint the portrait and figure. My mother took me to the theatre to see Shakespeare and children’s opera, and many of my paintings take their themes from these sources.” Painting mainly in oils, Arata’s portraits feature expressive depictions of characters from New Orleans, Neptune and mythical sea creatures, and Native Americans, among other subjects. John Pruett is more than just a gallery partner: he creates all the frames for Arata’s paintings.
Arata’s work has been exhibited in galleries across the county. Currently, her works are shown by the Greg Creason Fine Art Gallery in New Orleans and Art Obsessions in Reno. The Arata Art Gallery is open Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from noon to 5 pm, or by appointment. Learn more at https://aratafineartgallery.com/