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Group seeks to promote Lathrop’s city hall art gallery

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POSTED February 23, 2009 4:17 a.m.
LATHROP - The City of Lathrop has an investment that perhaps no other incorporated city in San Joaquin has.
It’s a collection of some 15 original art pieces. They are on permanent display in the Joyce Gatto Art Gallery on the north entrance to City Hall. But it’s perhaps the best-kept secret in Lathrop. While it is open to the public during regular business hours, visitors coming in to view these artistic and one-of-a-kind treasures are as rare as a summer rain shower drenching this town named by city founder Leland Stanford in honor of his brother-in-law, Charles Lathrop.
A community arts committee is working to make sure that does not become a sad reality. At the last City Council meeting, committee member Tony Martin presented some of the ideas the group has come up with not only to showcase the city’s growing art collection but also to transform Lathrop into a vibrant arts community.
Below are two of the ideas that have been discussed so far:
• Bringing into the Council Chambers one or two of the art pieces from the gallery on a rotation basis, say once a month. That way, the art works - and the artists as well - are given exposure that they otherwise would not have if they are simply left in the seldom-visited gallery.
“What better way to showcase (the city’s art collection) on an intermittent basis?” said Martin.
• Developing a program in which resident artists are invited to come to the gallery where they “do their work” or give a demonstration and bring some of their art pieces to sell at the same time. An arrangement could be made so that a commission can be collected by the city “for the use of that facility.”
Mayor Kristy Sayles said the idea of showcasing the bare walls of the council chambers with art work from the gallery has, in fact, been discussed. “So we’re working on that,” she said.
Interim City Manager Cary Keaten said this item will be placed on the agenda for further discussion at the next council meeting.
The city’s art collection is comprised of original art works selected by each incumbent mayor from entries submitted during the annual Mayor’s Art Purchase Award Show and Sale held every spring. The entry selected by the mayor is awarded a $500 cash prize regardless of the art work’s price tag. Among the artists whose creations have become part of this permanent collection is Manteca’s very own Tom Olson and Ripon’s Dan Petersen.
The annual art show and sale has become widely popular for the number of other prizes given away to talented artists from San Joaquin County and other areas including the Sierra foothills and the Bay Area. Cash awards are also presented to category entries that get the judge’s first-prize nod, as well as a People’s Choice Award and a Students’ Choice Award. Judges in the past have included the head of the Art Department at California State University, Stanislaus, an art instructors from the University of the Pacific and San Joaquin Delta College who are also renowned artists.
Other cash awards are presented to art pieces selected by various businesses, individuals and organizations in the community who agree to be an Art Sponsor.
The city’s art gallery was dedicated three years ago and was named in honor of Joyce Gatto, wife of former Lathrop two-time major and current Planning Commission chairman Bennie. Joyce Gatto, who is also an artist in her own right having been a longtime member of the Manteca Artists Guild, currently heads the arts committee that is working on how to promote the gallery and the arts in the city.
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