Hayward Art Gallery Celebrates Local Artists

“Growth Spurt” by local artist Leah Versik is a
collection of old journals, dating back 10 years.

The Sun Gallery in Hayward held its reception for their annual Day of the Dead exhibit on Saturday to honor local artists and the always colorful holiday.

The day was filled with music, food, artisans and intense illustrations as the gallery showed off its pieces in the “Celebrando la Hermosura de la Vida” display.

Christine Bender, gallery manager of the Sun Gallery said this  “is probably our most well-attended reception. We cater more to the new artists, the up-and-coming artists usually seek out places like this.”

With its low fees, short show length and free admission for viewers, it is evident what Bender meant. But what was more important was the interaction between the local artists and the residents of the city they represent.

As one of Hayward’s first visual arts center, it has played a major role in the creation and continuation of local art, getting local schools involved and excited about the arts, as well as providing a space for beginning artists.

The artwork demonstrated the vigor and beauty of “Día de los Muertos,” a celebration of life and death, complete with skeletons, altars and sugar skulls.

A portion of the “Celebrando la Hermosura de la Vida”

The pieces are diverse and eclectic, embodying Hayward at its core. The range of expression was clear, from emotional photographs to demanding paintings of love and passion.

Local artist and 1994 CSU East Bay alumna Leah Versik had her art piece “Growth Spurt” on display Saturday. Her work represents old journals, books and “failed attempts of pieces I stated and never finished. I sewed them together. The thread is a metaphor for connections and this connection of the work and how it relates to myself.”

She attributes her passion and drive to the teachers she had at CSUEB.

“What inspired me to put my work here is because it’s like I’m following in their footsteps. These teachers were here (Sun Gallery) and now I’m here, and it’s neat to be in a place that they were.”

Downtown Hayward has drawn many children and adults with its wide variety of educational programs, “including hands-on experiences in the studio, lectures, workshops, storytelling, interactive chats with artists and educators, film screenings and readings that reflect the tenor of the current exhibit.”

A community member examines a display of
Dia de los Muertos dolls.

Also included in the gallery is work from students of Mt. Eden High School, who created artwork featuring skeletons for the event.

Many attendees expressed the gallery is truly a venue for art lovers, with Bender believing the Sun Gallery to be “a local gem.”

Artist Nina Starr said she chose the Sun Gallery because it was the best local venue she could think of that appreciated local artists.

With an Art History degree from UC Berkeley, Starr has dabbled in almost every type of art. “I have some still lifes based on my photography, I do doll sculptures, photography, painting, and I write children’s books and do my own illustrations.”

This small exhibit has much to offer, even sparking the interest of many non-local artists, as Bender said though the majority of people are from Hayward, they get a lot of artists from San Francisco, San Jose, among others wishing to exhibit their work in Hayward.

One of the art galleries curators Beatrix Castillo, started off showing her art work here while in high school and soon became a board member.

“The Sun is based on kids and education for the arts,” said Castillo. “We try to incorporate as many artists that want to be involved in the space, we do a call for art. It’s open to everyone, we ask them to bring it in and try to make it work in the space.”

Carrie King, an art teacher for 20 years at Mt. Eden High school in Hayward, said she loves coming to the gallery to see some of her current and previous students’ artwork.

“It’s really nice to see them being recognized and accepted in the greater arts community, and not just in our little school art gallery,” said King. “I’ve been here many times. I have had 30 or 40 students’ pieces here in the Sun Gallery.”

In a very diverse community, this art center seems to embody and represent its people and artists, and an impressive exhibition of the always-evolving art world.

“I think it’s really essential that the community, especially in Hayward, that we have this,” said King. “I think the artists are here, but there hasn’t always been places to show their work, with the exception of the Sun, which has been here forever.”

In the end, these events and spaces are considered vital to the community, in hopes of maintaining art in the public eye.

“Art it is the first thing to get cut in schools,” said King. “With Hayward having the whole mural thing happening, reminding people that we have this here is special and important.”