Made in Petaluma: A ‘buying local’ gift guide
New Vibe Gallery showcases the cool creations of local makers
There is a story behind every piece of art, every book and every handcraft on display at downtown Petaluma’s new Vibe Gallery, which had its grand opening in early November. If you have the time, any one of the gallery’s quartet of owners would be more than happy to share those stories with you.
“I could take you through the gallery, item by item, and tell you the story behind all of them — who the artist or the author is, and when, where or how that particular piece came to be,” said Margo Gallagher on a recent Saturday afternoon. As a demonstration, she points out a carefully arranged display of Wild Oat Hollow goats milk soaps on a shelf nearby.
“Sarah Kaiser, from Penngrove, has her own goats,” Gallagher said. “She sources all of her milk from her goats, and the flowers are pollinated from local bees.” A regenerative family farm, Wild Oat Hollow employs sustainable soil-building methods of pasture management and grazing, and produces an array of climate beneficial skin care products and fiber goods. Said Gallagher, “What she’s doing is really very interesting.”
Gallagher, an artist herself — whose own vivid, photographic kaleidoscope prints are among those items on display — is one of the four co-owners of Vibe, along with Rachel Usher, Maude Bradley and Jessica Jacobsen.
Usher, busy putting prices on a stack of calendars, pointed out a few additional local makers.
“Jessica, one of our other partners, who also lives in Petaluma, makes these beautiful beaded earrings,” she said, indicating a display of delicately-crafted jewelry on a top shelf. “And she does these gorgeous drawings, mostly featuring women and birds, that are just marvelous.”
Jacobsen’s work, like many of the art pieces in the store, are available as prints and originals.
“We’re interested in promoting artists and authors who work and write with a socially relevant focus,” said Gallagher, indicating a book section filled with titles by Petaluma authors. Added Gallagher, happily, “I’ve read every single one of those.”
Intentionally designed to have what Gallagher calls “a little bit of an urban feel,” the Vibe space is pleasantly open and airy but aesthetically full, every wall artfully packed with colorful, eye-popping things to look at. Part gallery, part bookstore and part gift shop, Vibe is a space where everything is clearly curated to highlight the work of mostly-local makers. Though not exclusively Petaluma-oriented, a large number of the artists on display — including most of the owners — do live or work in Petaluma.
The current featured artist is Petaluma’s Peter Stein, whose breathtakingly realistic, large-scale drawings are on display at Vibe through Dec. 19. in an exhibition titled “Inheritance.” Of those works currently hanging on the gallery’s north wall, most feature a bright blue Earth held by a human figure, a child with wings or a woman with a crown of flowers and twigs, gazing directly at you with a soulful, melancholy expression. Stein’s meticulous, emotionally vibrant drawings, said Gallagher, “highlight the fragile and volatile world the next generation must face and the challenges to come.”
Vibe Gallery blossomed from conversations the four friends had during the height of the pandemic shutdowns. In May of this year, just 10 days after deciding to open a downtown gallery as a hub of activity for local creators, they signed the lease for the space at the corner of Petaluma Boulevard and B Street.
“Coming out of COVID, we’d all been doing a lot of artwork, and we just had this feeling that all of the art we’d been seeing for months was on a screen,” Gallagher said. “Let’s bring it off the screen, let’s bring it downtown in real time, let’s create a place with a welcoming ‘vibe’ where people can soak up some beautiful artwork and maybe purchase something to help support the artists. So we said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ And we did it. In record speed.”