When Andrea Scharff’s family purchased their 1907 Bernard Maybeck home at 1321 Bay View Place – a home that has been the subject of countless historic home walking tours in the city, as it is one of rare de Maybeck that still exists in Berkeley – they wanted to share the house with the neighborhood and passers-by who showed interest in the magnificent property.
After all, the house had been owned by one family for decades and had been empty for years after a family member died. Why not celebrate the work of one of the Bay Area’s most iconic Arts and Crafts architects with the community?
“We wanted to connect with people but we didn’t want to have people” during the pandemic, Scharff said. “It’s tough being a new neighbor and we wanted to open up the space.”
The neighbors started talking. What if Scharff followed in the footsteps of many Berkeley residents before her and erected a small library in front of the house?
Scharff took the idea one step further. On top of the traditional little cube of free books, she opened an even smaller art gallery – just 5 inches tall and just over a foot wide.
Because Scharff Art and Lighting Gallery opened in April 2021, several local artists have shown their work to hundreds of people. The beautiful location near the Berkeley Rose Garden offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I got reactions from some people I haven’t seen in a long time,” said artist and quilter Rita Guzmán, whose 2-by-2-inch quilt designs “Starflowers Chain,” “Sashed Tumblers,” “Friendship Star” and “Ramoneur” currently hang on the gallery’s yellow walls.
Guzmán, who lives in Emerald Hills near Redwood City, feels pretty good about her work being featured in a gallery with such fantastic buzz.
Guzmán’s quilts were photographed and reduced to miniature size. But the “people” who admire the work from inside the gallery do not notice it. They are only one inch tall and are lucky enough to have a plush pillow the size of a monster to sit on while they watch Guzmán’s work.
By the way, ducks are allowed in this gallery. The thumbnails.
“I think what I love is that it’s magic. It’s just magical,” said real estate agent Ira Serkes, who has had several photography exhibits at Art & Lit. “You go there and she does such an amazing job with ducks and people and sizes and shapes. … She thinks about it a lot.
Look inside the gallery and you’ll think you’re right with the little figures admiring Guzmán’s massive quilts and their lush, vibrant colors and intricate patterns.
“All the neighbors love it. When people have guests over, it’s part of the neighborhood tour,” Scharff said. Even when these historic walking tours stop at her house to talk about charming Maybeck, “visitors now go to the gallery when the person talks about the house”.
Scharff is not an artist, she says, but she experiments with just about everything. She has oil paints and acrylic paints. She has done metal work and has several musical instruments that she plinks and boards.
“I dabble in art,” she said. “I have a short attention span and I just do a lot of things. I like to move a lot and do a lot of things. And people have a lot of ideas that they bring to me, and I never say no .
Since the opening of the gallery, she changes the exhibitions every two or three weeks. She showed photographs, hand drawings, illustrations and pictures of paintings. She likes to show the work of local artists, but sometimes breaks the rules and organizes thematic exhibitions, such as a recent exhibition by Frida Kahlo.
And the neighbors, whom she went out of her way to impress, certainly fell in love with Scharff’s small, socially distanced neighborhood gathering space.
“It’s wonderful,” said neighbor Natasha Beery, whose daughter Julia Beery is a science illustrator and showed her drawings of nudibranchs, soft-bodied molluscs, to Art & Lit. Beery said she and her other neighbors had talked for years about starting a free library before Scharff moved in.
“Within days, Andrea had the gallery up and running and beautiful,” Beery said.
When Julia Beery showed her work, it was during the holidays and their whole family got to see the show, complete with its gallery soundtrack of sea shanties.
“It was absolutely delicious,” Beery said. “It just became our little landmark. We’re just thrilled.
Experience Art & Lit for yourself by simply walking down Bay View Place, or visit the gallery website.
Laura Casey is a freelance writer covering Berkeley and East Bay.