The staff of the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica is familiar with what it takes to turn something desolate into something beautiful. On Friday, the gallery that was converted out of an abandoned elementary school, held its first public opening since February 2020.

After over a year of limited capacities, the event more than made up for lost time.

The night celebrated somewhat of a return to normal as prescheduled appointments are no longer required for entry.

“We consider ourselves a community center with art and we haven’t been able to have substantial community gatherings until now,” said Executive Director Cindy Abbott.

The art center currently showcases three exhibitions that will run until Aug. 15, 2021.

The Main Gallery features the art of Gregory Farrar Scott, in “Welcome to My World.” His collection of “urban masks,” built out of old bike helmets and other found materials, offers the viewer a glimpse into his mind — and his ability to put disparate objects together to form entirely new creations.

“It’s my first time seeing all of my work displayed in one room like this,” said Farrar on opening night.

The art center’s West Gallery houses the work of the Art Guild of Pacifica with a broad variety of mediums in “Restructured.” The exhibit highlights a variety of local artists, each with a unique take on the theme.

“We have seen that our artists have really been able to dive into their work during the pandemic,” said Abbott.

Finally, in the East Gallery, “Extraction: Response to the Changing World Environment” showcases the work of the California Society of Printmakers. Each piece serves as an artistic comment on the social and environmental consequences of industrialized natural resource extraction.

“Art can touch people’s souls in a way that rational discussion doesn’t,” said artist Holly Downing.

Part of a larger, global constellation of exhibitions, the show hopes to use art as a tool for intervention to provoke societal change.

Despite lingering fears of the coronavirus, and with wildfire season looming in California, the opening night reception was a cheerful celebration of a trying year.

“Things can be terrible, but they can have beauty too,” said Downing. 

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