San Rafael's Art Works Downtown is Marin's "incubator for the arts". The 40,000 square-foot complex, housed in the circa 1878 Gordon’s Opera House building, is a labyrinth of studio spaces, galleries, retail shops and a Parisian-style cafe. The cultural heart of San Rafael, the center buzzes with creative activity, especially during the holiday season.
Touring the center, you'll find studio spaces for over 35 artists plus five galleries, including the main gallery whose current show features paintings, drawings and sculpture by Bob Nugent. Chances are you'll meet artists like Barbara Lawrence, whose colorful pastels and oil paintings feature Marin landscapes and rural scenes, and Stephanie Jucker, originally from London, who paints primarily on canvas with oil and also does mixed media printmaking.
On the second Friday of every month, the center is the focal point of a free Art Walk from 5pm to 8pm. The public is invited to stroll Fourth Street between A and G streets and peruse the galleries, meet the artists in their studios, stop for a glass of wine at Odalisque cafe and shop for artisan crafted jewelry at the Marin Jewelers Guild. A number of other nearby merchants, from bookstore to salons, welcome art walkers and there's live entertainment and fun for the entire family.
In December, Art Works' main gallery hosts a juried "small works" show featuring works smaller than 18x18x18, all by Bay Area artists. It's the perfect place for art lovers to find unique holiday gifts that are just the right size.
In addition to ongoing classes for adults and children in ceramics, painting, paper casting, photography, drawing and sculpture, the center hosts special hours for weekend gift shopping on December 6, 7, 13, 14, and 20 and 21 (Hours: Fridays 5pm to 8pm and Saturdays 12pm to 6pm). Art Works Downtown is located at 1325-1337 Fourth St., San Rafael; (415) 451-8119. Regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
For more art studio visiting choices in Marin, Sausalito Artists, a large group of talented, Marin artists located in Sausalito's historic Industrial Center Building, offers guided studio tours. Tours typically visit five to seven studios and are catered to guest's interests and time constraints. To learn more, see www.sausalitoartists.com/tours.