Monterey Peninsula-area artists have no better friends than John and Shelley Aliotti. The couple conceived the Carmel Valley Art Association (CVAA), a collective gallery located in the heart of Carmel Valley Village that showcases the work of more than 40 artists.
“We felt that local artists weren’t being represented,” John says. “Visitors assumed that the artists shown in Carmel lived in Carmel, but that just wasn’t so. We thought there was an opportunity to put up a gallery and show local art, so people can really see who’s here.”
It all started because Shelley, a graphic artist, was receiving clients at the couple’s home to discuss the stationary, ads and other items she was designing for them.
“I didn’t think that was a good thing, so I said, ‘Let’s find a place in the Village and we’ll set you up,'” John recalls. They found a space in the Center Street Marketplace where she set up shop in 2004.
“That first gallery was my studio and I had my work displayed there,” Shelley recalls. “But we still had empty wall space and decided to bring in other artists’ work.” That became Valley Girls Gallery and they quickly outgrew that studio, moving to progressively larger digs until the current location became available.
By that time, more artists had been added to the fold, including Carmel’s beloved cartoonist, the late Bill Bates. “Bill suggested we form an association. We thought that was a great idea,” John explains. “It was one of those things that just needed to be done, so we decided we were going to be the ones to do it.”
Today, the bright, airy and friendly gallery is the first business one sees upon entering the Center Street Marketplace. Works in a wide range of media—including watercolors, photography, sculpture, collage and an exciting, vibrant technique in which art is dye-infused onto metal—are displayed, resulting in a riot of color. Each year, the Association opens a juried competition to attract new members.
“We jury once a year and we typically get 20 or 30 artists,” Shelley explains. “We only accept one or two. They need to work in a totally different medium or possess outstanding talent and they have to live and work within 60 miles.”
Why 60 miles? “It’s an hour’s drive. We want our artists to work in the gallery one or two days a month if they can. It’s hard to ask someone from further away to do that.” When a potential customer walks in the CVAA’s door, they’re typically greeted by one on the artists whose work hangs on the walls. That brings an intimate, personal touch to the experience that other galleries that represent out-of-town artists just can’t provide. “This is one of the only truly local galleries on the Peninsula,” John adds.
As if supporting the artists who call this area home wasn’t enough, the Aliottis have taken on the task of promoting all Carmel Valley businesses. They’ve taken a two-pronged approach: a printed map and an online presence.
“We print 25,000 maps each year,” Shelley says. All businesses along the 11-mile stretch of Carmel Valley Road that runs from Highway 1 to just past the Village are listed, and display ads are available on a paid basis. It’s a beautifully designed, user-friendly resource for visitors who might not be aware of what the valley has to offer.
“If someone wants to know what’s in Carmel Valley, they can go to the site or look at the map and they can find all the restaurants, all the bars, all the wineries, all the businesses, all the wedding venues and all the hotels,” John says.
The website, www.carmelvalleyco.com, expands the valley’s reach to the entire World Wide Web. Why do the Aliottis go to the trouble to promote their colleagues in business?
“As a gallery, we’re trying to raise the level of all the businesses in the valley so that everyone benefits,” John says. “We’re not just wineries out here. We have artists and restaurants and amazing hotels.”
As leading members of the close-knit Carmel Valley community, John and Shelley Aliotti firmly believe that helping their colleagues is a path to prosperity for all. As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Visit the Carmel Valley Art Association at 2 Chambers Lane in the Center Street Marketplace in Carmel Valley Village. For more information, call 831/659-2441 or go to www.carmelvalleyartassociation.org.