Iconic Gallery Celebrates 30 Years
For Ralph and Diane Waterhouse, art is a labor of love. A British landscape painter vacationing in California and a painter’s daughter, they were set up on a blind date by a family friend in 1983. A match well made, within a year they opened Waterhouse Gallery, now celebrating 30 years in Santa Barbara. For the last 23 years, they have been in their current location in the heart of downtown’s La Arcada.
Their shared passion is art, and like matchmakers, their deepest satisfaction comes from connecting the right person with the right piece of art.
“People will come into the gallery and say they don’t know anything about art,” Diane says. “And I say, you don’t have to—it’s about what you like, what strikes you. It’s very personal.”
If someone comes in wanting a piece of art solely as an investment or to match their interior décor, they will likely go away empty-handed.
“Again, it’s personal,” says Ralph. “It’s something you’re going to see and enjoy on a daily basis in your home.”
Over 30 years, the couple has heard countless people lament that they wished they had purchased something they saw and loved—the opposite of buyer’s remorse.
“If you see something, and you can’t get it out of your heart and mind, you should buy it,” Diane says.
The modestly-sized gallery miraculously houses the work of more than 50 artists from around the world. Three to four times a year, the Waterhouses mount new shows, while still keeping space for their regular artists.
“When we opened our gallery,” Diane says, “Ralph photographed the paintings—with film—then had it developed and copies made. I typed labels, wrote letters and mailed them. How things have changed.”
For their gala 30th anniversary celebration on November 22, they will unveil a new show with artists from all over the country, with live artist demonstrations and a reception. That evening, the couple will also host an elegant dinner for artists and other invited guests.
“I love selling a painting to someone who has never bought an original work of art before,” says Diane. “I tell them, you will never forget this moment.”
“An original painting has something of the artist in it,” says Ralph. “All the sweat, blood and tears that went into creating it. You can see the brushstrokes, you can feel the texture. Sometimes there’s a hair from the brush, there may be a tiny bug stuck to it. There’s nothing like an original piece of art.”
“We love it, it’s our life,” says Diane. “We’ve met wonderful people. We’ve helped a lot of young artists launch their careers. We love to give back to the community.”
So, does Diane have any hidden artistic talent?
“Ralph’s the artist,” she says. “I handle the business, find the artists, hang many of the shows. I’m not at all artistic.”
“It’s all in your taste,” says Ralph. “She’s got terrific taste.”
Waterhouse Gallery, La Arcada, 1114 State St. #9, 805/962-8885, waterhousegallery.com.
Originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.