"If you build it, they will come." Although that adapted film dialogue references a baseball field, it's only a slight creative stretch to apply it to a local "field of dreams."
In this case, the passion project is RAM, a brand-new art gallery opening Friday in Old Town Kern. It is the brainchild of Rachel McCullah Wainwright, who brings her art history education and a decade of experience with the Bakersfield Museum of Art to the endeavor.
This gallery is the latest step to expanding the fine arts/creative culture in town, Wainwright said.
Being involved in community projects, like BMoA's Art After Dark after-hours events, Wainwright said she realized the potential for growth to foster the thriving arts scene.
"In order to be a city that truly supports the arts, there has to be commerce. And I look forward to creating a space that nurtures emerging artists and also emerging collectors."
And although she will gladly welcome those looking to make a purchase well-lubricated after a lunch at Luigi's or any of the Basque restaurants in the neighborhood, the curator and owner wants the gallery to become a haven for creatives.
"Part of the reason that this size space was so exciting for me was I really want this space to be a living, breathing organism in the city. I don't want it to be a white cube that feels sterile or, you know, art's just on the walls and people come in at the opening of the new show, and then they never come back."
The decision to move from the museum world came about three and half years ago. As with many creative endeavors, it came from a chance opportunity. Venice Beach artist Chuck Arnoldi, who was looking for additional storage space for his paintings, found the building adjacent to the former Granada Theater. Finding it was a much larger space than he needed, he reached out to Wainwright who had once mentioned her dream of one day owning a gallery.
"It was early in my career at BMoA that I started realizing that the gallery world was an option," she said. "Initially it was just through the work that I did with other galleries and seeing that world.
"I've always loved working with living artists. I love being around creative people. And seeing that that was the gallery world was very immediate. Although I come from an art historical background, it's the people from this world that really fascinate me."
Wainwright, along with her husband, Henry, struck a deal to lease half of the Kentucky Street building, with a wall planned to separate the gallery and storage area.
Her two-year transition plan extended due to the COVID shutdown but she left her job at the museum at the end of last year.
Then work picked up in a flurry of activity the last few months to prepare the 3,500-square foot gallery space for the first exhibition.
When "The Wilds" opens Friday, it brings together the work of six artists — Greg Colson, Sarah Vanderlip, Deanna Thompson, Allen Ruppersberg, Kristopher Raos and Ali Vaughan — who lived, studied or worked in Bakersfield at some point in their lives.
The show's name is inspired by Eve Babitz's essay "Bakersfield" from her book "Slow Days, Fast Company" in which she spends a "glorious weekend in the wilds of Kern County."
"There are six artists that I think represent the full breadth of artists who have connections here and ... run the gamut from a number of emerging artists to artists who are historic at this point," she said.
"Also, I was strategic in selecting artists that explored some of the complexities of place and specifically Bakersfield, thinking about Bakersfield as kind of an outlier in California in a lot of ways. I think that if I don't address some of those complexities at the opening of this gallery, you know, would it be an honest gallery that exists in Bakersfield?"
Noting that contemporary art galleries have struggled locally in the past and local artists have migrated to more supportive communities, Wainwright said she sees the tide turning.
"There hasn't been the full living organism of the art world or art market here in Bakersfield all happening at the same time. You know, there have been blips of that, all happening separately, but there's never been a thriving scene that's really been able to nurture creatives."
"I think finally, right now, what we're seeing happening downtown, like the 'Orgasms of Fury' show, to see over 200 creative people gathered at this pop-up immersive art experience. How hopeful was that? I was so inspired by that. I'm really excited by the generations below me that are choosing to do incredible things in Bakersfield, and I hope that it's a sign of the evolution of the way that we embrace the arts here."
Wainwright has plans for more exhibitions throughout the year, with the next opening in June. Along with full exhibitions, she is looking to host other events incorporating poetry and other art forms.