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Linda and Gene McClain

Arte de Placitas owners Linda and Gene McClain relax in front of their Placitas “hybrid” co-op.

c. Gene McClain

A few of the many retablos in Gene McClain’s large body of work. Photo credits: Oli Robbins

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Arte de Placitas: where art meets community

—Oli Robbins

By now you’ve probably noticed that the Rock’n R gallery in Homestead Village Shopping Center has a new name. It also has new artists, new owners, and a new personality. Now called Arte de Placitas and owned by Gene and Linda McClain, this local venue no longer showcases the art of just four artists, but rather boasts an eclectic grouping of artwork by 27 artists. Nearly all of the artists represented reside in Placitas, so it’s not surprising that the gallery is very community-focused.

The McClains refer to the gallery as a “hybrid co-op,” which has three levels of artists. “Featured Artists” are those artists who chip in on rent and work in the gallery several days per week, while “Friends of the Gallery” are artists who either assist with rent or work three hours per week, and “Consignment Artists” are those who neither work nor assist with the rent. Featured Artists and Friends of the Gallery receive a higher percentage of sales for works sold than consignment artists. Says Linda of the Featured Artists and Friends of the Gallery, “we couldn’t do it without them. That’s where the community thing comes in. We couldn’t do it alone.... The camaraderie has been amazing.” Luckily, community is also important to the McCallisters, who own the Homestead Village Shopping Center. Says Gene, “It’s great that our landlords have been really supportive of the transition. They like things to be community-oriented.” That the gallery includes the art of so many locals, many of whom can be found working alongside their art, has helped generate traffic. Says Linda, “All the new workers we have that are part of the community help make it a place that people like coming to visit.” Upcoming concerts and other events and activities to be hosted by the gallery will likewise draw people in.

Gene is a seasoned veteran of the gallery and co-op scene, but for Linda, working in the art world is brand new. Linda, who this Spring retired from the public schools of Bernalillo, where she worked as a staff level occupational therapist, is happy in her new gig. “I love it!” says Linda. “I’ve been using my left brain too much.” Linda still puts her left brain to work at times, however. She makes an effort to get to know the artistic process and philosophy of each of the artists she carries and tries to invest potential buyers in “who the artist is as a person.” Gene and Linda make a great team, for, as Linda puts it, “I like selling. He likes making.”

Gene and Linda are confident that the unique nature of the gallery will ensure its success. Community is the common link among the artists, rather than style or technique. So while the co-owners aren’t looking for art that looks any particular way, they do care about attitude. Says Linda, “The premise was only positive energy in here.” The gallery displays art in a variety of mediums, and carries both the functional and the decorative. The McClains don’t use a formula to determine what artwork they will carry, relying on their instincts instead. The paintings, photography, jewelry, furniture, sculpture, and pottery that endow the gallery with its dynamic, upbeat feel, range in price and character. Linda explains that they “have different areas of variety. Some artists are very well-known in the community and some are people who have never shown their art anywhere. We have very experienced artists and novice artists, affordable art and expensive art.” The McClains hope the diverse nature of their collection works to their advantage. Says Linda, “We would like someone to come in each month and say, ‘Wow, I haven’t seen this before.’ We want to be a destination.”

A large selection of Gene’s humorous, whimsical, and sometimes satirical furniture and retablos can be found in the back of the gallery. A self-proclaimed scatterbrain and “art jock,” Gene’s work is partially inspired by art history and religious art. Pulling his subjects from history and popular culture—Gene’s best sellers are his Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan retablos—Gene likes it when his work conjures various associations and prompts viewers to ask, “Why are you doing that?” For Gene, it is more important to invent than to master. “The main thing is invention. You don’t master until the sales start happening. Basically, I was taught to invent and create.” Gene regards many of his artworks as dear friends, and feels somewhat disappointed when something sells. “It’s a friend of mine,” Gene explains. “I’ve loved having it around, and I’m going to miss it.”

Gene puts his artistic capabilities to good use as co-owner of the gallery.  Most of the gallery’s furniture and display cases—some of which rival the artwork itself in quality and appeal—have been made or creatively reinterpreted by Gene. Says Gene, “I worked for interior designers part time when I was teaching, so I have a feel for stuff.” Indeed, it takes an artist’s eye to fill a somewhat small space with such assorted art without making it feel too cluttered.

Whether you’ve already said hello to the new gallery, its owners and artists, or not, be sure to stop by on July 21 for the grand opening. The gallery will open at 10:00 a.m., and the opening will take place from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. You can look forward to enjoying refreshments as you visit with many of the gallery’s talented artists.

Arte de Placitas is located at 221 Highway 165 in Placitas. Visit www.artedeplacitas.com to learn more about the gallery’s structure and its many artists. The gallery is open Wednesday to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. To make an appointment call 505-228-9128.

 
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