Elsie Arredondo is living her dream—sort of. The former healthcare worker became a gallery owner two years ago, but taking over what was then-called Monarch Gallery on Prospect Street has presented its fair share of challenges.
“We've been busy rebranding ourselves for the past two years,” says Arrredondo, who quickly realized the gallery she took over wasn't what she wanted.
Monarch had a long list of artists of varied styles they represented, says Arrredondo, and the gallery rarely opened new exhibitions or solo shows. The location and reputation also attracted more tourists than serious art collectors, so she eventually changed the name to Monarch | Arredon Contemporary and moved to 7629 Girard Ave., closer to R.B. Stevenson Gallery, Joseph Bellows Gallery and Quint Contemporary Art.
“If you're trying to cater more to art collectors, at least in La Jolla, you want to be here on Girard,” says the Latina mother of two. “I mean, you've got Quint next door, Stevenson, Bellows—all great guys.”
“It's definitely a guy's club, though,” she adds with a laugh. “But that's a whole other story…I kind of showed up and knocked on their doors like, ‘Hi, neighbor!' and I think they're all kind of watching the clock, like, ‘I wonder how long she's going to stick around.'”
Arredondo hopes both the location and name change will indeed help her stay. She wants to send the signal that Monarch | Arredon is something completely new and different—a serious contemporary-art gallery that folks need to give a second chance. She's whittled down the gallery's list of represented artists and launched an ambitious schedule of exhibiting the work of guest artists. Abstract sculptures by Ron Jermyn are currently showing, and his water-inspired works prompted Arredondo to organize two water-conservation lectures hosted by the Water Conservation Garden of El Cajon at the gallery at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27.
She's interested in partnering up with other community groups and nonprofits moving forward and says she's currently on the hunt for mid-career, mostly figurative artists to show in her space. Most of all, she says she's ready for her gallery to become a bigger part of the contemporary-art conversation.
“I don't think outsiders see [La Jolla] as a destination for art anymore,” says Arredondo, who sits on the board of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association and has helped organize the new Village Nights art walk that's been happening from 5 to 8 p.m. every second Saturday of the month since May. “I wanted to get involved because I would love to see La Jolla become more of a vibrant arts district…but it's tough-going. It's been modest beginnings but you have to start somewhere.”