Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on March 14th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 2

Spotlight on: Morley and Art Brut 117

John Morley, curator


Art galleries may be sparse around Santa Maria, but at least one nearby is managing to carve out a comfortable niche.

Morley & Art Brut 117 at 117 E. Clark Ave. in Old Town Orcutt features local and California paintings handpicked by curator and owner John Morley.

“I’m an entrepreneur of sorts,” Morley told the Sun. “I don’t know what you’d call it—I call myself a curator. I like to put it together.”

The gallery opened in Orcutt just a little more than a year ago. Before that, Morley ran another in Los Alamos for two decades. He said the first day he opened the Los Alamos location was one he would never forget.

John Morley said he got into collecting art in the 1960s and hasn’t been able to stop ever since. “I got a taste of it when I was younger. Sure enough, that taste eventually became a habit, and finally, an addiction,” he said.

“Los Alamos 20 years ago was sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll,” Morley explained. “It was just an outback, dangerous town.”

That general wilderness (and comparatively lower property prices) appealed to Morley, who eventually opened up a gallery and restaurant inside the old general store. The move came with considerable risk, he said. No one Morley met in those early days thought he could sell art in the area.

“I couldn’t figure it out,” he said. “But then on the first day we were opened this cowboy dude comes up in his beat-up old truck—the first person to come in—goes into the cafe, and he’s this old, good guy, rugged, and I go, ‘Aw crap, we are in trouble now, this guy is gonna ask us what the hell we are doing here.’ But he comes up to the bar, he looks at the girl behind the counter and says, ‘I’ll have a cappuccino, and would you put extra cinnamon on it, please?’”

As it turned out, the “cowboy” was connected to the surrounding art community. That very day, he told a friend about a painting he saw in the gallery. The friend came to Morley that night and bought the piece for $18,000.

“An $18,000 painting,” Morley said with emphasis. “My first day.”

And while the new gallery in Orcutt may not have had as much luck, at least up till now, Morley said that wasn’t really the point.

“Galleries or art is a hit-or-miss business, just like food is a hit-or-miss business,” he added. “You teach a little bit, but you learn from people too. I learn a lot from people who appreciate art, and that’s the most rewarding thing. But you don’t become a millionaire from doing this. You have to have a passion for it. I have a passion for artists. I work for my artists. I like to see it when they sell something, and they like it too.

“You don’t have to sell art; art sells itself,” he added. “I can see someone when they come in and know I’ve sold a painting.”


• Santa Maria’s Ulta Beauty at Bradley West Shopping Center (755 E. Betteravia Road) opens its doors for this first time on March 16. The new location features 20,000 beauty products across 500 brands, as well as a full-service salon. Ulta is the largest beauty retailer in the United States and provides products to more than 1,058 retail stores across 48 states and the District of Columbia.

• As part of the the 26th annual Taste of Solvang, a Danish Sunday brunch with bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, or coffee will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at K’Syrah Catering Events Center at 478 Fourth Place in Solvang. The menu, created by Executive Chef Brooke Stockwell, will feature pork belly bites with maple syrup, mini yogurt parfaits, and Danish style mini egg frittatas, among others. Meal prices range from $50 to $65. Reservations are required online at

Staff Writer Spencer Cole wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at

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