San Jose youth art gallery needs new home
ArtHouse founder Julie Stover admires a student's watercolor painting, born out of the prompt: What do you wish for? Photo by Elena Neale-Sacks.

    After years without a space of its own, a youth art studio finally found a gallery location. But at the end of May everything has to come down. And for now, there’s nowhere to go.

    Julie Stover founded the nonprofit ArtHouse Studio, originally known as ArtHouse Kids, more than 20 years ago as a way to nurture creativity and inspire confidence in children. ArtHouse offers a range of art programs to about 20 mostly low-income schools throughout the Bay Area. Until recently, the programs had only been classroom based. Last December, local real estate investment firm SDS NexGen temporarily donated a vacant retail space in the Garden Theatre to the nonprofit.

    “It’s a lot more valuable for a space to be active than to just have brown paper on it and wait for a tenant,” Michael Mulcahy, a friend of Stover’s and managing partner at SDS NexGen which owns the theatre, told San José Spotlight.

    Stover and her team used the opportunity to transform the unused retail space on Lincoln Avenue into a student art gallery.

    “We would have classrooms come in, kids would do art projects,” Stover told San José Spotlight. “It was like a little field trip for them, to see (what) other kids in their community…were saying.”

    The entrance to the ArtHouse Student Art Gallery at the Garden Theatre in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. Photo by Elena Neale-Sacks.

    Recently, ArtHouse kicked off a partnership with Stanford Medicine’s Early Life Stress and Resilience Program to develop an art curriculum to help children learn about and how to prioritize their mental health. For Stover, a public gallery is an important piece of the puzzle.

    “What we’re trying to do is generate this connection between community and youth so that stereotypes are broken down, so that they can understand what the kids are dealing with these days,” Stover said.

    Stover said residents wander into the gallery all the time while passing through the building or waiting for their food next door, and they’re moved by the students’ work.

    But, as a vacant retail space, the gallery was always going to be temporary.

    “Every month we would just kind of wonder, can we have it for another month?” Stover told San José Spotlight of the prime Willow Glen location.

    In March, Mulcahy signed a lease for the space with aL chocoLat, a chocolate company. Mulcahy and Lena Walther, the chocolatier, agreed to let ArtHouse remain in the space while the company went through the permitting process.

    “I just got excited when I actually met Julie and I saw all these drawings,” Walther told San José Spotlight. “It’s amazing with the kids. I really want to support that.”

    Lena Walther, middle, discusses plans for her chocolate shop, aL chocoLat, which will open in the gallery’s current space later this year. Photo by Elena Neale-Sacks.

    Carolyn LeBaron is an ArtHouse teacher at Luther Burbank School in San Jose, and her students feature their art at the gallery. For her, the best part is watching students’ faces light up when she tells them their work is being exhibited.

    “You can just see them stand up taller,” LeBaron told San José Spotlight. “This makes them visible.”

    Mulcahy is trying to help Stover find a new gallery space for ArtHouse, but so far they haven’t had much luck.

    “The majority of people (who visit the gallery) will say that this should be a part of downtown San Jose,” Stover said. “Having kids understand other kids, having adults understand kids…everyone’s been so supportive and that is why SDS NexGen let us (stay) there. But it is definitely coming to an end.”

    Contact Elena Neale-Sacks at [email protected] and on Twitter at @elenaneale17.

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