This month artist and art gallery owner Paolo Mejia will re-open his namesake gallery on Grant Street, after operating it for two years in Hunters Point. Mejia first launched his gallery in 2013, and has already represented 20 fine Bay Area artists.
When asked if there was a common theme amongst the artists he works with, Mejia said simply, “Probably just love of the creative process.” This sentiment was echoed by seasoned artists Bill Jackson, Anthony Anchundo, and Mel Vera Cruz, who have been represented by Mejia since he opened. The three artists were drawn to Mejia’s charisma and passion for art. They also found it refreshing that he’s a painter and sculptor, not just a businessman.
According to Mejia, too many gallery owners are non-artists who focus on the trade’s business aspect, and as a result miss art’s technical, philosophical, and cultural characteristics. This lack of connection between galleries and artists was one reason Mejia decided to open his gallery.
Mejia feels that it’s important to let artists focus on creating their work, rather than on selling it. He said that financial pressures can make being an artist disheartening. “For some of my artists this is not their day job. It’s really hard to sustain yourself in the fine arts, unless you’re already well networked. It takes a long time, and luck, to connect with a particular gallery or collector,” Mejia said. Over time he hopes to represent all kinds of artists, including younger people trying to enter the field.
Artist Barbara Bouchard, as well as college art courses, left lasting impressions on Mejia. He said he probably wouldn’t have become an artist without Bouchard’s influences. “She is the most influential person in my life. She was my guide in art, she opened up that world for me,” he said. Mejia believes that a good mentor helps artists refine their techniques and style. Mentorship, support networks, and strong communities are fundamental components in creating great art and artists, according to Mejia.
But great art alone doesn’t drive art sales; it mostly comes down to location, Mejia said. “I’m happy to be moving to a more trafficked area. The community there seems to have more exposure, and people can probably relate a little more. When I started around Bayview-Hunters Point the art culture was not really there. Even though there’s a lot of artists out there, they weren’t accepting or exposed to culture. They were trying to share their work with their community, but it’s still growing,” said Mejia.
Mejia has recently engaged in art philanthropy and hopes to continue with it. “We’ve done some charity work with Bantay Bata, which is a Philippine-based charity in Redwood City which serves abused and abandoned children here in the Bay Area as well in the Philippines,” he said. “We hope to do some charity work in the future with environmental and animal rights groups.”