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Paso Renaissance 

Pierce Modern Gallery is the latest addition to Paso's burgeoning art scene

Paso Robles is known for its scenic rolling hills and expansive vineyards. Tourists and wine enthusiasts alike flock to the Central Coast location to taste the fruit of the vines and take in the local fine dining. But Paso is quickly developing a third dimension to make this a sophisticated trio: art.

click to enlarge ART SCENE :  Gallery director Rachel Eckert believes Paso Robles is growing into a premiere art destination. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • ART SCENE : Gallery director Rachel Eckert believes Paso Robles is growing into a premiere art destination.

The rural community’s bubbling art scene has been steadily increasing in notoriety, and a third gallery has now settled into a new space in downtown Paso Robles. Pierce Modern Gallery opened its doors at 617 12th St., right next to the Vale Fine Art gallery. The newly renovated space showcases a unique blend of contemporary fine art from a wide array of artists both living and deceased. Owner Jeffrey Pierce said that his inspiration for creating Pierce Modern was simply that he “always loved to go to galleries,” and “wanted to create a space that had a museum feel.” With the assistance of directors Rachel Eckert and Giuseppe Bellissima, Pierce has created a gallery that has the feel of something you would find in the larger markets of San Francisco or Los Angeles.

The art that lines the gallery walls and the sculptures that dot the floors are mostly from “working artists from the West,” according to Pierce, and he also has a number of pieces on display from his personal collection. Overall, there is no unifying theme to the works on display, and this plays into the overall strategy of the directors as they attempt to appeal to locals as well as tourists traveling from San Francisco or Los Angeles, looking to purchase high-end artwork.

In addition to an abundance of pop-art paintings and labor-intensive sculptures of both steel and alabaster, Bellissima said that the landscape and western art pieces in the gallery were brought in with local tastes in mind. He wanted to add some “sculptures that are not flimsy, and made out of bronze and raw materials,” which he thinks will appeal to the local ranching community. This mixture of different styles seems to collectively capture the attention of all art appreciators, without leaving anyone’s palate dry.

The gallery itself feels like something created in a different time, and when you take a step inside, you forget that you are in Paso Robles altogether.  “We wanted to have a 1950s New York vibe,” Bellissima said. The interior walls are stark white, which allows the artwork to really pop. The floors were intentionally left unfinished, giving the space a gritty, industrial look that makes you question whether you are in a gallery or an artist’s workspace.

So why is Paso Robles beginning to blossom into an artistic haven? Pierce Modern gallery director Rachel Eckert believes it “has a lot to do with the wine industry as well as the food industry. I’ve been in Paso Robles for 13 years and have tried to stay involved in the local art scene and now that it is expanding and broadening, everyone is happy. We are trying to hook up with other galleries so we can put together an art walk.” Bellissima added “the combination of great wineries and great restaurants is bringing a level of sophistication.”

Gallery owner Pierce would like to bring in some new pieces every two months, saying  he “always has an eye out” for new artists. The gallery is currently showing artist Michael Heath who is from Pierce’s hometown, Palm Springs, California. Pierce explained that artists who live in the desert create a lot of the art that is displayed.

Pierce Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m. or by appointment. You can check out more information at or call them at 975-8640.

Fast Fact

Come see the Ruiz brothers grilling up chicken on the barbeque in support of their uncle Jaime Gutierrez, who is recovering from kidney cancer surgery. There will be food, refreshments, and live music. Tickets are $8 and the event will be held at St. Joseph Church at 298 S. Thompson St. in Nipomo. Email Ivan Ruiz at if you would like to buy a ticket or support the event.

  • This article was updated on Sept. 1 to reflect that Rachel Eckert has no association with the Vale Fine Art Gallery.
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