Tomorrow, Waterhouse Gallery is celebrating 35 years since it first opened its doors with a large exhibition at its La Acarda location. Specializing in landscape, figurative, and urban works, the gallery owned and operated by painter Ralph Waterhouse and his wife Diane Waterhouse will display pieces by about 50 artists both local and from across the United States. According to a press release, some of the featured artists will be present at the celebration and do demonstrations in the courtyard outside the gallery from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Waterhouse Gallery started in 1984 after the eponymous couple met and got together the previous year, when Mr. Waterhouse was doing an art show in Scottsdale, AZ. Before moving to the United States to open a gallery with his wife, Mr. Waterhouse operated a gallery for six years in his native England. For its first five years, Waterhouse Gallery was located in Solvang before moving to its first Santa Barbara location near the Arlington Theatre. There it stayed for two years before moving to its current location in La Arcada Plaza, where it has now been for 28 years.
At the beginning, Waterhouse Gallery primarily carried landscape paintings, some of which were Mr. Waterhouse’s own works. As the couple recalled in an interview with the News-Press, this diversified about fifteen years ago when they anticipated that figurative art might become popular. Thus, the gallery started carrying more figurative paintings depicting people in the midst of various actions, which Mr. Waterhouse referred to as “conversation paintings.”
“People can look at them and they’re telling a story, so that’s what we really like about that kind of work,” he said.
Throughout their three and a half decades in business, Mr. and Ms. Waterhouse have seen many other local galleries open and close. When asked what has made Waterhouse Gallery thrive for so long, Ms. Waterhouse said its longevity is likely due to two things: The broad appeal of the art it carries, and that the gallery’s selections are true to her and her husband’s tastes.
“I couldn’t show things that I don’t love and that I wouldn’t personally want,” she said.
Mr. Waterhouse concurred and said, “We live with what we sell.”
As neither she nor Mr. Waterhouse get very attached to trendy art, Ms. Waterhouse described their shared taste as one for “traditional contemporary work.” This encompasses the plein-air landscape paintings that Mr. Waterhouse specializes in, figures, and cityscapes rendered both realistically and impressionistically. Recalling the early days of Waterhouse Gallery, Mr. Waterhouse said the biggest challenge he and Ms. Waterhouse faced was simply getting known. Achieving this not only entailed displaying artwork that the public enjoyed seeing, but diligently performing quality control on pieces the gallery acquired.
“That’s the challenge, so carrying good quality work I think is very important,” he said.
Though Mr. and Ms. Waterhouse’s passion for high-quality art has driven the couple to operate Waterhouse Gallery for 35 years, it’s a milestone beyond anything they envisioned when they started out. In Mr. Waterhouse’s opinion, it’s all because he and his wife are happy to be doing what they’re doing.
“When you start out with an art gallery or being an artist you have no idea what the future holds… It just happens and as it goes along it keeps happening, and as it keeps happening if you’re still enjoying it, you keep it happening,” he said.
Waterhouse Gallery opens at 11 a.m. today with artist demonstrations between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. A reception will be held at the gallery between 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Waterhouse Gallery is located at 1114 State St. #9 in La Arcada Plaza.