Mind Over Matter: The Gray Matter Museum of Art
Oh, Costa Mesa! You have the capacity to surprise even the most dedicated devotees among us. We are endlessly amazed by the little, local treasures we find tucked away in your neighborly nooks and crannies. Will we ever know them all?
One of our latest discoveries – and by “discovery” we mean, “How the heck did we miss this for so long?” – is the elegant and inspiring Gray Matter Museum of Art at Costa Mesa’s southeastern edge.
Have you been? We hadn’t either until we got a tip from the local artists at Location 1980 that we should check it out.
“Gray Matter is a non-profit, boutique museum dedicated to community, events and the arts,” said Adina Verdult, Board President at GMMA. “We officially opened in February 2014, but we’d been searching for the perfect space for years and years up to that point.
“When we found this space, it was an old, vacant, Wachovia Bank branch. There were teller windows, ceramic tile, low ceilings and those fluorescent lights we all love so much. We really had to gut it down to its bones and totally rebuild the space according to our vision.”
And gut they did. What you’ll see at Gray Matter today is the opposite of an aging bank branch. The clean, white walls and 17-foot, industrial-exposed ceilings seemingly stretch to the sky. Gone are the teller windows and tile in exchange for modern, alabaster benches and a polished, cement floor. Natural light filters in from the expansive windowscape, and there’s nary a trace of fluorescence to be found.
The stated goal of Gray Matter is “to create a safe and inspirational place to brainstorm, dream and explore,” one that is “peacefully zen and filled with art to enjoy.” In our opinion, they have both down pat. The museum is the kind of place that invitingly draws you in and then drags your feet when it’s time to leave.
“We encourage local artists to experience it. They are welcome to come here for a place to sketch or think. We want artists to use the space as their own, little, creative escape.”
Even better? Visitors can enjoy the museum free of charge, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11am – 4pm (unless it’s closed for a private event.)
Speaking of private events, GMMA is available to rent out for birthday parties, corporate mixers, weddings, guest speakers, book signings… pretty much anything you can dream up. The light, bright space screams “blank canvas” and we’d imagine would yield flexibly for soirees of every persuasion.
“We love events. Events are one of the main things that keep the museum doors open,” said Verdult. “The money we get from event fees is the primary source of funding that keeps us going. And why wouldn’t you rent it? It’s a lovely space; really great for all kinds of events. We’ve even got a rooftop upstairs with peek-a-boo ocean views. It’s perfect for events with that New York, open-air, rooftop vibe.”
If Verdult says the museum and rooftop are great for events, we’ll take her word for it. She is also the Consulting Principal Planner for The Event Loft and has likely planned more parties in one year than we’ve attended in our lifetime.
“After years of building my career, doing events, serving clients, finding success, I was ready to broaden my reach to give back and make a difference,” said Verdult. “I personally have always been drawn to art and the rest of our Board Members have, too. We want to use our talents to create something beautiful, share the wonders of art with our community, and bring creativity into the lives of future generations.
“This year, we are working hard to start bringing our art curriculum to local schools; getting the kids together with real artists to experience the process. We’ve got other ideas in the works, too. Kids are so visual and creative, I’m just really looking forward to doing more. Children plus art is huge for us.”
Beyond art education, Gray Matter Museum is dedicated to supporting local artists by not just showcasing their work in the gallery, but providing a means for selling artists’ work, too.
“Art submissions go to the Board,” said Verdult. “We review them together and decide if they are a fit. Even though we have our exhibits calendared out pretty far in advance, nothing is written in stone. We are open to seeing new pieces, absolutely. In fact, we’re open to all new ideas.”
Not just open to new ideas, but overflowing with so many of her own, Verdult fits right in with the growing legion of independent, creative, Costa-Mesa-based dreamers and doers I Heart Costa Mesa has interviewed.
“Costa Mesa is the glue that holds all the surrounding cities together,” said Verdult. “There’s so much energy here.
“Being on 17th street, especially, has been really great for us. It’s a thoroughfare through the heart of Eastside Costa Mesa. We get such a melting pot of people from so many different backgrounds; unique shops, great restaurants, dive bars and diners – places you can’t find anywhere else.
“What I like best about Costa Mesa is the whole thing is just really, really cool.” ♥
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