The slowdown in businesses has become common during the pandemic, but The Alley Gallery has embraced its role in uniting Pomona residents through art by adding a splash of color in the community during these gloomy times.
Locals, including Cal Poly Pomona students, have been drawn to the art that decorates Second Street. However, people rarely notice the small business that it all stems from, including third-year anthropology student Blanca Martinez.
“We started from where the first art was put on the gate and walked around the whole little square,” said Martinez. “Then, we went across the street to see what other businesses were open.”
Though most artworks along the “little square” have The Alley Gallery’s logo labeled on the top, most people fail to recognize the business that curated the art they are looking at.
Owner and curator of The Alley Gallery Geo Esparza notices the appreciation for the art but struggles because of the lack of support for it.
“People love art. People appreciate art. But people don’t support art,” said Esparza. “People will come in here. They see a painting that costs like $5 or $6, but they wouldn’t buy that. They’ll go to the coffee shops and spend $15 on a mocha.”
The Alley Gallery, however, is credited for the artworks embellishing the streets from exhibitions like “31 Flavors” and “Through Her Eyes.”
“31 Flavors” showcases 31 styles of art from local artists ranging in popularity — some with 10 followers on Instagram while others have more than 10,000. While providing exposure for local artists, the goal was to decorate the empty ditch in the middle of the Pomona Arts Colony with art by and for the community.
“Through Her Eyes” presents different interpretations of Pomona goddesses depicted by local female artists. They are the first artists to create mural installations in the historical First National Bank building in its 121-year history.
Various artworks from local artists can also be found painted along Second Street to reshape the presence of the community. Artist Joe Walsh, whose artist name is Joe Ded, recently painted a Cat-O-Lantern for the “31 Flavors” exhibition.
This month, the gallery launched the “2ND in 3D” exhibition in which local artists will create and install 3D artworks in downtown Pomona for people who live in places without yards. Esparza hopes the interactive art will give people a space to engage with entertainment.
Before the establishment of the gallery, Esparza purchased the space when he was just 19 years old. With no experience in business management, he jumped at the opportunity and possibilities.
He browsed the space and told the landlord, “I can come up with the money for my first month’s rent and for my deposit. I have no credit. I have no bank stuff. I have nothing.”
The landlord handed him a lease contract and Esparza took it home to examine. It was the first contract presented in front of him but, with a deep breath, he signed it and got the keys the next day.
The art gallery was initially opened to help his brothers, who are painters, but after they lost interest, he focused on helping others.
“I kept doing it, and I kind of went from trying to help my brothers to actually helping more people within the community,” said Esparza.
Since then The Alley Gallery has hosted painting classes, live paintings, open mic nights, pop-up shops and curated over 100 exhibition shows — some that attracted over 2,000 people.
Through the efforts of The Alley Gallery, local artists are gazing into the potential of the reawakened art scene in Pomona. Esparza hopes to connect with more students at CPP, highlighting the importance of bridging the university with downtown to ensure a strong bond within the community.
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