An evolution for southern Yosemite’s vibrant art scene


For The Madera Tribune Yosemite Gateway Art Center adds to the beauty of the region with spectacular works of art, new performance space, and a hands-on learning center.

OAKHURST — Previously known as Yosemite Gateway Gallery Row, this summer, a group of artists and visionaries have rechristened the collection of galleries as Yosemite Gateway Art Center. The galleries, located along the Southern Yosemite Highway in Oakhurst, have been a prominent destination for decades.

Now, Yosemite National Park visitors, Bass Lake revilers and residents alike, have a new cultural resource to celebrate. Yosemite Gateway Art Center will still offer a treasure trove of beautiful art galleries, but new this year is the addition of a performing art space for musical events, lectures and performances.

“The center is more than a collection of galleries. It is a space where artists, musicians, writers and other creative people can come together to support each other and the vibrant creative culture in our area,” said Jonathan Bock, president of Sierra Art Trails and director at Yosemite Gateway Art Center. “The galleries will showcase works by artists that live and work here, and will celebrate the beauty of the vistas that surround us, but will also present new ideas, work by artists from outside the area, and trends in the art world.”

Yosemite Gateway Art Center’s five galleries each boast a unique style:

1. Stellar Gallery showcases contemporary fine art photography with a focus on Yosemite National Park and the California Sierra Nevada region.

2. Stavast Studio Gallery features peaceful and reflective oil paintings in a “magical realist” style from the artist, Stephen Stavast.

3. Williams Gallery West impresses patrons with an eclectic mix of fine art and folk art, including ceramics, glass, jewelry, painting, prints, Native American arts and more.

4. Gallery 5 exhibits provocative rotating exhibits like the Yosemite Renaissance 35, opening on Oct. 17. Between special exhibits, the gallery showcases works from private collections, including pieces by regional and world-renowned powerhouses like Jean Ray Laury, Stan Bitters, Rollin Pickford and Jane Gyer.

5. The Art Center Gallery displays works from members and partner organizations including the Yosemite Western Artists art guild. This multi-functional space also plays host to live performance, music, spoken word, and lectures by local authors and historians.

“For decades, Oakhurst has been heralded as an artists’ community. It’s been said that per capita, the Sierra foothills are home to the largest group of professional artists in the state,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite | Madera County. “Creative thinkers are drawn to the region for its dramatic landscapes, colorful sunsets, isolation, and affordability. Our mountain towns are filled with visual artists, writers, and performing artists like the actors who grace the stage of our local Golden Chain Theatre, and musicians that perform lakeside, at Bass Lake Live, and other local venues.”

Still, it’s not only the granite monoliths and four seasons of inspiration that attract countless artists to the region. For many, the appeal is a gathering of like-minded people supporting each other in the community.

“When my husband and I moved to Oakhurst from Japan four years ago, I was excited to find Gallery Row and learn about the thriving art community that exists here,” said Teresa Sharp, artist, and local business owner.

“I have now participated in several local exhibitions, including my first Sierra Art Trails in 2019, thanks to the encouragement of new friends and the Yosemite Western Artists guild. The artists, director and staff at Gallery Row are supportive, inspirational, and now adaptive to the difficulties we are all facing. The community is enthusiastic about the Art Center, and this support for creative professionals is really exciting.”

Upcoming Events and Exhibits

Art Center Gallery

Note: All performances are currently streaming on Facebook Live

“Wild Things” a spoken word performance, 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10

Gallery 5

Yosemite Renaissance 35 — Opens October 17

The immensely popular Sierra Art Trails is an annual showcase of work that delights the public and entices art collectors every October. Due to the pandemic, the 18th annual exhibition has been postponed for the year, but is scheduled to take place October 1-3, 2021. Despite the challenges faced due to the pandemic, Visit Yosemite | Madera County will share happenings and exhibitions continuing throughout the year including the third annual “Artober” a month dedicated to celebrating the arts, October 1-31. Stay tuned for the “Artober” celebrations in Oakhurst including the “Bear A Day Treasure Hunt” with Art the Bear.

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