While many will stop by the Tejon Outlets for back-to-school outfits and deals, there’s a new spot on the directory that is worth stopping by — the Bird Dog Arts Gallery, which opened in early July.

The gallery, which was once home to three separate retail stores, is now a space for artists and makers’ work alike.

“I believe that this is a huge opportunity for a group of consumers to start collecting that haven’t,” said David Gordon, managing partner of the space.

The Bird Dog Arts Gallery is made up of three business partners who have worked tirelessly in the midst of the pandemic over the last year.

“It is really something special,” said Andrew Boyle of EB Development, who has worked on a similar gallery at a space in Vermont.

During the grand opening, Barry Zoeller, senior vice president of corporate communications and investor relations for Tejon Ranch, added that it’s about “bringing art to the everyday person” and that the hope is the average customer will see something and take it home with them.

The idea behind the space is that it will make art more attainable for those who haven’t collected in the past, especially with a variety of art for people to fall in love with and purchase.

The gallery’s three rooms are filled with paintings and photos, but there are also a number of other items, such as leatherwork, jewelry, mixed media sculptures, as well as smaller treasures, such as postcards, bookmarks and trinkets.

While many of the artists hail from Kern County, there will also be creators from other areas in California. One of Gordon’s overall missions is to put checks in artists’ pockets.

One artist whose jewelry is displayed and sold in the gallery is Susan Ruppel of Wire + Pearl.

“I became interested in designing jewelry after fashioning a pin from some flea market finds that included a handful of vintage Cracker Jack prizes, buttons and beads for a friend. I’ve always been a treasure seeker and trinket collector and these pieces eventually found a place in my jewelry designs,” Ruppel said.

Ruppel’s inspiration comes from a number of things, like colorful sunsets, the textures and composition of a flower in her garden, and traveling to flea markets here and abroad.

She is honored to have been invited to show her pieces at the gallery among so many other talented artists and makers.

“Not only will the new gallery be a fabulous addition to our community, but a destination for Californians and a stop for travelers traversing I-5,” added Ruppel.

Artist Joseph Heffernan said his aesthetic can be traced to his mother. 

“Her clothing, jewelry, furnishings, the art and art objects she collected, and even her cooking shared an affinity for elegance and understatement. We never talked about art or aesthetics — she simply allowed the art to speak for itself,” Heffernan said. 

Although he often inserts a deeper meaning into his art, on the surface it may be easy for most people to see the influence of comics, graphic art, tribal art and industrial design. And, sometimes, his work is purely decorative. 

“But, other times I attempt to express thoughts I have about society, civilization or science. Sometimes ideas pop into existence like a spark and sometimes they roast for long stretches like embers. I read. I listen. I observe. I think. And, I always sketch and write before I create,” Heffernan added. 

He also believes that Bird Dog Arts now offers California artists a strategically located space to showcase and sell their work, and to share their processes through workshops and lectures. 

“It promises to be an art hub with spokes that branch out and connect with the community. Fine art is mostly hidden in imposing museums and snobby galleries. But Bird Dog Arts is open for business and outreach in a shopping mall. What could be less off-putting and more egalitarian than that?”

Gordon hopes people leave inspired and the art will change their perspective about the creative side of humanity.

People will pay for designer duds and not think twice, but tend to think differently about art, and he hopes the gallery helps change some of those ideas.

The night of the grand opening for Bird Dog Arts Gallery, the space hosted 1,100 pieces of art with 64 featured artists.

“It’ll never be the same place twice,” said Gordon, as the artists will continuously be switched out and replaced as pieces and art have been purchased.

In the future, Gordon sees it becoming an event space, as well as a spot for book signings, poetry readings and workshops. People can also book tours.

For more information about Bird Dog Arts Gallery, visit https://birddogarts.com/. Visit the gallery at 5701 Outlets at Tejon Parkway, Suite 440.