Just Folk Art Gallery

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When the ultimate insiders open a gallery of outsider art, you know it’s going to be a dusey.

Twelve years ago, television industry luminaries Marcy Carsey and Susan Baerwald discovered they shared a love  – and serious collections  –  of American Folk art.  So much so, that it seemed opening a gallery was the only way to continue their passion while purging their respective garages.  Their husbands enthusiastically agreed.

Hence, “Just Folk” was born.  The sleepy yet upscale seaside town of Summerland, 10 minutes outside of Santa Barbara, California was chosen and local architect Brian Cearnal engaged.

“We wanted a building like a barn, a gallery on the second floor, and a New England cottage in the back,” says Baerwald, “with as much recycled materials as possible.”

And that’s exactly what they got.

Cearnal’s award-winning design has become a destination for anyone wanting to step into a world of suspended belief. Traditional farmhouse materials of board and batten siding wrap the exterior, corrugated metal clads the roof and a whimsical Pig weathervane spins happily atop it all.  “We treated the metal with an ‘organic soup’,” says Cearnal, “so it would feel aged.”  Inside, the wood floors are recycled from a dismantled barn and the bricks were salvaged from the previous home on the site. Instant provenance.

Upstairs, the white-washed exposed-beam cathedral ceiling offers a flood of light for the gallery space.  Life-size male and female textile dolls perched on a barn door ledge look innocent enough, until you realize they are the sentinels for bathrooms that lie behind the weathered planks hanging from an iron track.

But, architecture is just the vessel for the true treasures.  Just Folk’s assortment of Outsider Art, Tramp Art and Traditional Americana is laced with wacky handmade wonders along side some very serious artists that are highly coveted and displayed in national museums.

“Kelpys” by artist Richard List crafted from dried sea kelp into “busts” with maniacal laughing faces and a shock of “hair” could easily fill a shelf at only $150 each.  Continue past the riot of quilts and you’ll encounter the country’s largest and most important collection of works by outsider artist Bill Traylor.  Bring your Centurian card though, because a Traylor drawing may set you back $150,000.

Whether trinket or treasure, it’s clear Carsey and Baerwald relish being “visual storytellers” just like the artists whose work they love.