Foothill town a comfortable fit for artists

New gallery to open across from Newcastle Packing Shed
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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The Local Artist’s Gallery
Opening reception:
Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18
Where: 470A Main St., Newcastle
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Info: (530) 392-4365

Newcastle Packing Shed
455 Main St., No. 8, Newcastle
Who: Caroline Alexander (watercolors)
Pat Stoddard Aragon (pastels, oils)
Jan Miller (pastels, oils)
Bobbie Pilliard (mixed media)
Charlene Schmidt (pastels, floral design)
Margot Schulzke (pastel, oils)
Bobbie Voraphongphibul (pastels)
Joyce Williams (pastels)
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. most weekdays
Info: (916) 663-1516

Barbara Powell took a circuitous route to Newcastle. Not that the town of slightly more than 1,200 residents is hard to find. She just needed a little help finding her way.
A former Coast Guard photojournalist, youth pastor and accountant, Powell found what she wanted to do for the second half of her life in the form of a paintbrush and canvas.
“I started painting for the first time at 43,” said Powell, 45. “I said ‘Oh my gosh, this is what has been missing from my life.’”
She is all set to open an art gallery on Main Street that will showcase the work of about eight local artists, hence the name “The Local Artist’s Gallery.” It sits right next door to the Quality Market and smack dab across the street from the Newcastle Packing Shed, where eight artists share space in a working studio.
“This is a gallery, not a studio,” she said. “The gallery will take a percentage of sales and the artists are asked to work at the gallery two hours a week.”
At this Saturday’s opening reception, wall space will feature artists from Ophir, Grass Valley, Meadow Vista and Auburn. There will also be a jewelry designer and someone who does stone etching.
“I want it to be a place where people can come and appreciate the work that others have done,” she said. “I want people to come through that door and find that perfect piece for them, just the thing they’ve been looking for.”
When Joyce Williams was looking for studio space 10 years ago, she and her daughter happened upon the Newcastle Packing Shed.
“I was looking for a studio to rent and my daughter said ‘this would be a great space,’” Williams said. “There used to be a bounty hunter and a gift shop in there too. We still have a massage therapist, but they are moving out.”
Situated at the southern end of the historic fruit packing shed, where farmers would drive their trucks up and load their wares onto conveyor belts, the studio still sports the original floors, wooden slats on the ceiling and chicken wire in the doors.
One of her friends rented one of the spaces, then another. Now there are eight artists and two photographers to join them shortly.
“I had a good feeling about it when I first came,” said Bobbie Voraphongphibul, who has been there four years. “I share a space with Jan Miller, another pastel artist. I’m right handed, she’s left handed so it works just fine.”
On top of that, there used to be a curtain in the middle with an architect working in the back half of the room.
“We made it work,” she said. “It’s a fun place. We all get along. There’s good karma here. We’ll ask each other’s opinions, ‘What do you think about this?’ We’re not competitive … much.”
What is competitive is a way in the door. The studio currently has a waiting list of artists. Pat Stoddard Aragon, the newest member, was on it a year before receiving a space in December. But once in, all we spoke to agreed that it was a wonderful environment to work in.
“I love it, there is so much camaraderie, we really help each other out,” said Charlene Schmidt, who’s been there a year. “Our common interest is to bring beauty to the world.”
Across the parking lot, on the other side of Main Street, the same feeling exists.
“I want the gallery to be a center of joy and happiness,” Powell said.
Until then, being at the center of the Newcastle art scene will suit her just fine.