Gallery owner and long-time Clayton resident Julia O’Reilly hopes the inviting space with beautifully displayed artwork brings joy to the community.
During the 2020 pandemic, with many businesses closing or struggling to survive, O’Reilly felt a need to support local businesses. With community healing in mind, she thought, “After the pandemic, we all need art therapy to get back to normal.”
She came up with the concept of an open art gallery, someplace where people could hang out, maybe take an art class or just enjoy the beauty of art.
O’Reilly and a business partner opened the gallery in May 2022 as JE Fine Art Gallery and Gifts. In December 2022, her business partner, who was an artist, had to leave the business due to medical issues. O’Reilly took sole ownership, renaming the business JOR Fine Art Gallery.
O’Reilly learned a lot about the artist world after that change.
“I needed a partner who was an artist,” she said with a shrug. “I am a jewelry maker. I can’t give art classes.”
Despite being a novice in the art world, she has managed to find talented artists to work with as she develops ideas to support the community. She seeks out local artists and invites them to display their work and also hosts “Artist Spotlight Shows.” She promotes each spotlighted artist, advertising meet-the-artist receptions and providing a welcoming social atmosphere, with printed bios and individual art techniques for each artist.
On Valentine’s Day, she partnered with her business neighbor, Nails Naturally, for a Customer Appreciation Day that drew more than 30 people. In addition, she has conducted several sip-and-paint parties. One Halloween sip-and-paint event was particularly memorable. The tribute to Elvis Presley featured an Elvis impersonator and attendees in costume.
Classes on macramé, rock painting for kids and floral arranging are among other events she has put on at the gallery. She is always looking for guest artists who can give art lessons.
O’Reilly enjoys her location a bit off the main drag. She sees kids walking by after school and is always ready to welcome them in to look at the art. She also appreciates when local artists and other visitors see her gallery as a comfortable spot to stop in and say hello or to stay and share a Turkish coffee and some treats with her.
She tries to keep her gallery kid-friendly and does not accept nudity or political art. She strives to avoid conflict and stay neutral.
“When people visit my gallery, I want them to feel like they are walking into a beautiful garden and come away with a smile on their face.”
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John Nakanishi is treasurer of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.