A gallery with vision: Galeria Monarca in Sebastopol seeks inclusion

By Elsa Cavazos, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, November 17, 2021

Galeria Monarca is located at 228 S. Main Street, Sebastopol.

Using the Monarch butterfly as inspiration, Galeria Monarca is open and ready to welcome any type of artists.

Gonzalo Ochoa Jr., 34, was raised in Sebastopol and has lived in Sonoma County almost all his life. Ochoa just recently opened Galeria Monarca, located at 228 S Main St. in Sebastopol. It’s open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9.

Ochoa said he was looking to open a space which allowed all kinds of artists to display their art.

“When this vision came to me, what I basically thought about was living here in Sebastopol. I looked at all the different businesses and organizations that were here around town … and I wanted something that could help enrich the community and support local members and local artists,” Ochoa said.

“I feel they are underrepresented especially if they are in the younger crowd, I think it can be an older person’s game. I just want to do things for my community and help it grow and help bring it together,” he said.

The gallery has been open since Oct. 28. The inspiration behind the name comes from Ochoa’s heritage. His family is from the Mexican state of Michoacan which has one of the largest Monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the world. To him, having the butterfly migrate from Canada through the U.S. to Mexico is amazing.

“It is not the same butterflies that get there, it’s generational,” Ochoa said.

The first exhibit at Monarca Gallery was a community altar. He had members of the community come together and create three different altars — people brought photos of their loved ones or a personal memento.

“It was just really touching to see when people were setting up their part of their altar and how they became emotional and relive some of the memories. Just because lives are lost does not mean they are forgotten,” he said.

So far, he said the gallery has received an incredible amount of community support. From local businesses to people walking in front of the gallery.

“The location is really nice and people get to look at what’s going on. We are establishing more connections with local artists and building those relationships within our community,” Ochoa said.

His goal is to improve the community, help those who are underrepresented and inspire transformational moments. Right now, the gallery is filled with art made by people Ochoa personally knows.

“People who work nine to five and do not have the means to have their art known,” he said.

There are other galleries in Sebastopol but he said he feels they cater to a specific demographic.

“I am not saying that is wrong but I would like it to be a more inclusive, more broad and community based gallery,” Ochoa said.

“Our mission is to elevate and celebrate the voices and perspectives of those underrepresented and marginalized groups, and create and hold space for creativity of all shapes and sizes,” he said.

The purpose is to achieve this through curated art shows, hosting community events and offering affordable recording services to young musicians.

“Making your way as a creative of any type is difficult. We aim to help those who need it most,” he said.

In the next few months the gallery will continue to host events. Through their Instagram Galeria_Monarca announcements are made.

“Everybody is welcome here. We believe in community, creativity, inspiration and helping each other out,” Ochoa said.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org