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A Home at Last : Buenaventura Art Assn., a survivor of hard times, will show off its 1,800-square-foot gallery.


After being homeless a year and a half, the Buenaventura Art Assn. has a place of its own and plans to show it off Friday night.

The association, formed 35 years ago to promote the work of Ventura County's visual artists, resided for a generation on Main Street in old Ventura. The artists were forced to give up their rental space when the organization fell into dire financial straits in April, 1989.

"We had increased rent and decreased sales, and we had to move out before we lost everything we owned," said Lee Hodges, part-time director of the association.

The group's new home, freshly painted and carpeted, reveals none of that history. The 50-year-old medical office at 700 E. Santa Clara St. has been renovated into an 1,800-square-foot community art gallery. The association is showing it off with an opening reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

The association, which claims about 90 dues-paying members countywide, is offering a comeback show titled "Artists Old and New," black and white photographs of trees, bright acrylic flowers, and oil paintings that run from a portrait of an American Indian dancer to a nonrepresentational work called "Schizophrenia." Hodges said the 90 works in the show were chosen from about 115 submitted by members.

The improved financial status stems from the association's founder, teacher Clophine Dooley, who died in October, 1986, and left roughly $450,000 to the association. After three years of legal wrangling over how the money could be used, the association gained access to the money last year. Most of it was spent on the purchase of the gallery space in December.

"It's exactly what Clophine Dooley would have wanted," said Ventura attorney John Orr, who donated his services during negotiations over the bequest.

"Organizations that have homes tend to continue to flourish," Orr said. "Those that are homeless, or renting their space, tend to be only as good as their most recent officers. . . . And this community needs to support its art."

Renovation of the East Santa Clara Street property began in April, and the gallery opened its doors to the public Sept. 18.

The walls are white, the carpet is taupe. Hodges was still adding final touches recently when local artist Paula Odor arrived with a framed pencil sketch of Dooley. In the picture, drawn from an old newspaper photograph, Dooley wore her hair up, grinned and peered out through thick glasses.

"Call her our benefactress in perpetuity," Hodges said, placing Dooley's picture above her desk.


The Buenaventura Gallery's front area will change shows monthly; work in other rooms will change every two months. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The gallery will also open on the first Sunday of every month, when the city's Parks and Recreation Department throws open neighboring Plaza Park to artists and crafts workers.

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