Charitable giving at our 9th Annual Unique Boutique

Among the many talented artists and crafters who are selling their wares at our 9th Annual Unique Boutique this holiday season, we have a group of quilters who will be donating their proceeds to local nonprofits, hospice groups and hospital patients.

Scrappy Quilters is a group that has been meeting regularly since 1993 at the Mt. Diablo Education Center in Pleasant Hill. Our gallery is filled with a wonderful selection of their lovingly made lap quilts and tote bags! They are also collecting donations with a raffle for a chance to win this gorgeous quilt.

Donate $5.00 for one single entry into the drawing ($10 for two entries, etc.) via PayPal by clicking here:  

A sneak peek!

If you haven't been by to see the current show yet, here's a sneak peek. 

We hope to see you soon!


Artist Spotlight: Tom Quinlavin


Tom Quinlavin is originally from New York and studied art at Long Island University, where he received a BFA in Painting. He had an art studio in his apartment in Manhattan for several years, before moving to Concord in 1999.

"I push the contrast between colors, shapes and movement (or rhythm) of what’s happening on the surface. Color and movement have an emotional value and I use that.

While sometimes I use recognizable imagery, my work is based in an abstract format. However, it’s not only about abstract concepts, but also how I see myself and the world around me. I continue to evoke emotions, moods and ideas. I just keep painting.

The Right Place at the Right Time

The Right Place at the Right Time was originally two separate paintings but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the results. Not that they weren’t strong works on their own, they just needed a little push. I tried turning them and then put them together, which really pushed Hans Hoffman’s concept of “Push and Pull.” They then became one."

Click here to see more of Tom's work.

Artist Spotlight: Walter Crew

It Is What It Is

Walter Crew lives in Pleasant Hill and has been painting for over twenty years. Before retiring, he had a career as a Journeyman Aircraft Machinist at Alameda Naval Air Station. He also bred and showed English Bulldogs for fifteen years.

"Painting is my therapy - it’s positive and relaxing, especially with so much negativity in the world. I usually paint each evening before I go to bed. I want to be creative and do my own style - I don’t think anyone else paints quite like I do. I want to make paintings that will make viewers stop and take a second look and hopefully remember it. If I’m not able to get the viewer's attention right away, then I haven’t succeeded.

With the above mixed media piece, “It is what it is," I just sat down and did whatever I felt like doing at the time. I love creating this kind of unplanned work. I added collage objects to my acrylic painting, worked in different figures, netting, cut-outs...I had fun and I want to do more like this.

My bird painting was done in oils with added solvent drippings for texture.

I enjoy working with a variety of styles and mediums - I want to try it all! Never be afraid to make mistakes - that’s how we learn. You won’t be very creative or go very far if you're afraid of mistakes."

Artist Spotlight - Eric Vandetta

Inductive Reasoning

Eric Vandetta is a teacher at Wren Avenue Elementary, an arts magnet school here in Concord. He has been creating digital art for about 12 years, and exhibiting for a little over a year. 

When asked what keeps him motivated to create, Eric says, "To be honest, it's pleasing myself that is most inspirational. When I look at a picture and know it's done (at least temporarily), I think, 'I made that and I like it!' It's pure pleasure.

Inductive Reasoning is inspired by my affection for the religious art of the Renaissance - the dramatic poses, angels and other objects flying through the sky, the fluidity of the images, and the richness of color. This picture brings the style a little closer to our time with the addition of the fence and lattice. 

Pretend You Don't Notice

Pretend You Don't Notice started as a photo of a tree. In fact, that tree led to five completely different pictures. I created the landscape, then I saw a deer's head camouflaged in the picture, so I created the two deer from scratch."

Learn more about Eric at

Artist Spotlight: Martin Biro

sunset martin biro

Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Martin Biro currently resides in Pleasant Hill. After studying art and economics in college, he became a silversmith with the family business, Biro and Sons, in San Francisco. 

"I went back to painting in my 40s when a well-known artist, Pauline Teller, asked me why I was not painting. I decided at that time to use only a palette knife instead of brushes, because oil paints create a very moving effect when layered with a knife. I have a growing interest in abstract expressionism, which I feel gives me greater freedom to explore.

All my paintings in the "Five from Six" show are based on photographs I've taken while wandering about New Mexico. My daughter was working on a PhD at the University of New Mexico, so I frequently traveled there to see her, as well as my best friend, Jerry Dunbar, who's an indigenous artist there. We've spent a lot of time spent viewing the colors and landscapes of that state, especially the Native American reservations."

martin biro
Four Corners

Four Corners is about the spot in the Southwest where four state borders meet at one point - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

Click here to learn more about Martin Biro's work.

New show: Five from Six

Walter Crew
Walter's Raven Scape by Walter Crew 

Owner of the aRt Cottage, Fro Schmidt, enjoys developing themes for each show. Her last several shows have featured female artists, so she thought she'd try something new and call upon six male artists to exhibit five pieces each, hence the show title, Five from Six.

"This show is not about a group of artists who have known each other or worked together for a long time. But I have a connection with each man and connections between them have also been revealed. George, Walter and Martin are long time members of the East Bay Artist Guild (EBAG), the first art group I ever joined many years ago.

Robert was also an EBAG member at one time. Both Robert and Walter are currently volunteering as docents at the Valley Art Gallery in Walnut Creek. 

Eric is a teacher at Wren Avenue Elementary School of the Arts and has frequented the aRt Cottage. On one visit, he purchased one of Walter's pieces. 

I met Tom several years ago, when he drove by the aRt Cottage one day and asked me what the place was all about and if he could exhibit here - and he currently is my highest selling artist.

I hope you all will enjoy this striking collection of bold and bright works from some very talented men!"    --- FRO

Borders by Tom Quinlavin


September/October 2020
Five From Six
Show opens on Tuesday, September 1st
Closes on Friday, October 23rd

Artist Reception - Sunday, October 4th    2-4pm 

Artist Spotlight: Helen Chu-Hirschberg

Helen Chu-Hirschberg

"Many years ago, in the throes of dissolution, musings both positive and negative were all-consuming. Escape, freedom, guilt, and others would be central to a metamorphasis. 

One night, I had a dream, classically Freudian in its symbolism. As I made my escape on a train, I peered out the window, to be confronted with a standing large bull - no ordinary bull, for it had two heads.

For me, the train, in its figurative sense, represented my departure. Two heads, one for me and one for my ex, was the graphic manifestation of our irreconcilable differences. Bulls, stereotypically stubborn, epitomized our inabilities and/or unwillingness to compromise.

The shattered glass over the "happy family" is for destruction, and myriad expressions swirl over a conflicted family."

Helen Chu-Hirschberg
Helen Chu-Hirschberg

Artist Spotlight: Pam McCauley

pam mccauley

"I come from a family of painters, both my mother and uncle were oil painters. Following graduation from Occidental College with a BA in Art and a Teaching Credential, I taught high school art in the Los Angeles Unified School System. I had very little time for art until my family was raised. But for the last twelve years I have started back with a passion exploring painting and means of expression.

To me the most important aspect of painting is the interpretation of emotion that a person, object or place is emitting; I love color especially and admit to being an unabashed colorist.

My favorite quote is from Picasso, 'inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.' That says it all."

Pam McCauley
Pam McCauley

Artist Spotlight: Virginia George

Virginia George

"I have worked in various media since I was a child. In 2018, however, I began focusing exclusively on collage:  painted paper, found paper, and mixed media. Since then my collages have been in numerous exhibits. 

For the Summer Musings exhibit, I selected four pieces.

Japanesque #7, from my recent Japanesque Series, uses both painted and found paper. The found paper comes from multiple prints I found in a battered old book of Japanese prints from the 18th and 19th centuries.

By the Sea also uses both painted and found paper, including Chiyogami paper and vintage wallpaper.

Sunset uses only paper I painted. It is part of my recent series using only the complementary colors orange and blue.

Splash uses paper I painted and one piece of found paper. It is part of my ongoing midcentury modern art inspired collage series.

See my website for selections from among my work and my CV. My work can also be found on Instagram @virginiageorgecollage."

virginia george
Virginia George

Artist Spotlight: Ruth Stanton

ruth stanton

"My art is about nature and people. As an artist, I strive to capture the beauty
in the people and places I have experienced in my life. 

Part of my creative process before I begin painting is to select images from my personal photographs that have a lasting impression on me. Whether it is the quality
of light, interesting shapes, colors, strong composition, or an image which
tells a story.

As an artist, I strive to breathe life into my paintings with the hope people
will view my art as uplifting and joyful."

ruth stanton
Ruth Stanton

Artist Spotlight: Melchia Kutches

Melchia Kutches

"I grew up in upstate New York and studied Fine Arts at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After graduating in 1988, I moved to San Francisco, then later to the East Bay, where I have been living with my husband and teenage daughter for the last 28 years. 

I work creatively in many mediums that include wire, paper, sewing, plywood, oil and acrylic paintings on canvas, as well as designing and executing lighting fixtures.

As it is for all of us, this pandemic is trying. My husband is working from home, so I have limited space which has challenged me in my creativity. I am painting in acrylic on canvas more than my preferred medium of oil because it saves time in drying, and then can be stored quickly."

Melchia Kutches
Melchia Kutches

Artist Spotlight: Dave Manousos

dave manousos

"My love of art was spawned at an early age by my grandmother who was a fine artist. She lived with our family and, out of my 10 other siblings, I was the only one that she allowed in her studio. She patiently taught me drawing and painting techniques that I still use today.

As an observer of people and what makes each individual unique, I pull from my experiences, or encounters with others. I retain some unique aspect of a personality that strikes me as interesting, unique or just memorable and I bring that to life in my characters when I paint.

Over the past 35 years I have experimented with many techniques of painting and illustrating. I have written and illustrated children’s books, been a graphic designer and continued to paint.

My Big-Eye Series is a compilation of character paintings that combines both my illustration and painting techniques. Each painting varies in personality depending on the color combination, the expression of the character and the setting."

Artist Spotlight: Sharon Tama

"Life is full of moments waiting to be captured on canvas. As a result, the subject matter of my paintings is broad in scope and continually evolving. 

To date, my works include human portraiture, including children captured in their most candid moments, animal portraiture, as well as images inspired by safari, works celebrating nature such as moss-encrusted gnarly oaks, paintings of sheer whimsy, and even non-representational abstraction. 

It is exhilarating for me to paint while exploring the vast world of color, light, and emotion.

I utilize acrylic paints on canvas because of their versatility and quick drying properties. 

I often find myself smearing paint with my fingers to meld colors on my canvas, and acrylics lend themselves to this beautifully."

Artist Spotlight: Rachel Zhang

rachel zhang
Greek Summers

"As an artist, I aspire to convey both an appreciation of the natural world and a curiosity of the whimsical and fantastical. I want to capture the vibrancy of life through colors and composition, and transport the viewers into a more idealized world. 
While I tend to stay within the realm of realism, a grounding foundation established by my long-time art tutor Ms. Jenny Gu, I find myself experimenting more with bright colors and artistic topics. 

At the age of 16, there is much to my style that I have yet to discover, and I find myself inspired daily by other artists, both of this gallery and in the infinite archives of the internet. 

Since dabbing in a few junior art competitions and recently starting an account on Instagram, I hope to expand my platform and share my passion for visual arts with more people."

Rachel Zhang

Artist Spotlight: Suzun Almquist

Riding Brennan's Wave

"I was drawn to art while living in Napa, California. There was an abundance of talent in the valley and I took great interest in the painters. However it wasn’t until I finally retired from a demanding career that I entertained the notion of actually painting. 

I was guided to Marcy Wheeler’s studio in Walnut Creek, California. As I started my art studies and began looking for subjects and compositions to paint, my father’s early photographs of our family inspired me. I wanted my paintings to capture the same sensitivity, emotion, place and time that were expressed in his photos. Besides portraitures, my interests have expanded to include painting landscapes and nature. I work on canvas and enjoy the versatility of acrylic paints.

Since 2013, I have exhibited with the Bay Area Studio Artists (BASA) and other art groups at venues throughout the greater Bay Area. I continue to study with Marcy and other BASA members and have taken additional classes in figure and perspective drawing through other art teachers."

suzun almquist

Summer Musings 2020

Day at the Beach by Ruth Stanton
Summer Musings 2020
Tuesday, July 7 through Saturday, August 22

Due to the current climate of unrest and uncertainty that we are all experiencing right now, the Lamorinda Arts Alliance thought it was appropriate to name their summer member show using the word "musing."

Musing is a period of reflection or thought that can include a variety of emotions from happy to sad to nostalgic. This show has some serious work and some light-hearted and fun “musings,” like a look back at a wonderful vacation. Some pieces might be about looking forward to better times ahead with feelings about current events.

Please note our open hours on the right; masks and social distancing required.

Saturday, July 11th   5-7pm
Opening Reception 
For artists and their guests 
This is a "soft" opening with no music or refreshments 

Saturday, August 22nd   2-4pm
Closing Reception 
Open to the public with refreshments and live music 
(pandemic guidelines for gatherings TBD)

Artist Spotlight: Roberta Welburn-Milstead

Roberta Welburn Milstead
Unleashed A  16x16 collage  $360

"I grew up in Boston, a city that had its own unique historical identity. It was during those early educational years that I learned New England was also rich in another significant way… literature. 

In fact, it was my appreciation of the writers in the 18th and 19th centuries (Thoreau, Dickinson, Emerson and Alcott) that I learned to value the ponderings of solitude, nature and identity. This intrigue may have shaped the essence of my journaling, a discipline I do almost daily.

Roberta Welburn Milstead
Unleashed B   16x16 collage  $360

As a child, I loved the endless colors of a rainbow… most colors with unique names could be found in a box of Crayola crayons. My first memory of distinguishing color and their related families could be attributed to my grandfather. 

It was not until years (and 3 children) later that I went back to school. I attended Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, where I developed a passion for photography, and soon graphic design would follow. The darkroom held a mystique that I loved. The technical education was challenging, but the gratification that followed was surreal...inviting me to experiment even further. 

Roberta Welburn Milstead
Unleashed C  16x16 collage  $360

It became clear to me photography and graphic design could easily become allies. I transitioned to the Bay Area over 6 years ago and during this time, my work also transitioned. I scratched and explored a new body of work. My influences often include words and text, which could be social or political. Most often the elements I respond to are often hidden within the layers of the piece. 

Like most artists, I’m still excavating." 

Click here to learn more about Roberta's work.

Roberta Welburn Milstead
Unleashed D  16x16 collage  $360

To purchase any of the artwork shown, click here to submit payment online via PayPal. Include the artist's name and title of the art in the note field. We will confirm a "no-contact" porch pickup appointment with you via email.

Artist Spotlight: Lynn Glenn

Lynn Glenn
Rain in Winter  36x36 mixed media  $1600 

"After my youngest child started kindergarten, I finally had the time to take my first art class, along with 100 other people in the park in Northridge, California. I just loved the class. I made a life changing decision. I would return to college and add an art major to my BS degree in education. I decided art was something I just loved doing. I could use my teaching skills imparting that love to others. At the same time, my husband also made a life changing decision - to accept a 6-year job offer in Lausanne, Switzerland. Off our family of four went to a new life.

Lynn Glenn
The Blue Collection   36x36 mixed media  $1600

In Switzerland, the Ecole des Beaux Arts is THE place to study art. It is the College of Fine Arts. The one requirement I could not meet regarded age. At the age of 32, I was too old, unless I was able to find professors who would agree to have me as an “eleve libre” (part-time student).

Lynn Glenn
Heirlooms   36x36 mixed media   $1600

I was determined to become a student there and take the art lessons I craved. After learning to speak French, taking classes to prepare a credible portfolio, interviewing in French, I was accepted and found professors willing to have me in their classes. 

Lynn Glenn
Ancient Treasure  36x36 mixed media   $1600

In addition to drawing and painting, I spent 6 years walking through old cities in Europe, visiting the art museums, seeing extraordinary art exhibits and absorbing the new cultures, history and colors surrounding me.

All the above informs my art. I was most attracted by the colors and textures. They are present in most of my work. I continue my art journey - studying mixed media and abstract art, and working solo in my studio."

Click here to learn more about Lynn's work.

Lynn Glenn
Excavated Treasure    36x36 mixed media  $1600

To purchase any of the artwork shown, click here to submit payment online via PayPal. Include the artist's name and title of the art in the note field. We will confirm a "no-contact" porch pickup appointment with you via email.

Artist Spotlight: Dee Tivenan

 Blue Tulips  30x40 Mixed Media on Panel    $1500

"The five of us are in a critique group. We met through classes and shows and have been friends for a number of years. We have been able to watch our art change and grow. We are happy to support Fro, who is creative and works so hard.

In Flight   30x40 Mixed Media    $1500

I was born in Detroit, Michigan and was raised in Highland Park, Illinois. My mother was a housewife, volunteer and someone who was always making things. She made clay sculptures, needlepoint pillows and sewed clothes and costumes. My father was in advertising. I remember sitting around the dinner table making up advertising jingles and slogans for his clients. Even though none were ever used, it was creative and fun. My sister was a dancer. She knew this is what she wanted to do by age 2 and a half. She continued to dance until she was 50. Then there was me. My mother called me 'doodlebug' probably because I was doodling on everything. When we were growing up, people said 'Janet is a dancer - what does Dee do?' For lack of something concrete, my dad said, 'She’s diversified.' It stuck.

Meditation   30x40 Mixed Media   $1500

I was the kid who was too afraid to take an art class in high school because I didn’t know how to draw. I did lots of other things (social, sports and doodling), but secretly admired those who painted.

When I went to college, I majored in Special Education. I always had an affinity for working with children and people, and to be completely honest, I didn’t want to work twelve months a year. I fell in love with ceramics and the potter’s wheel in college and also dabbled in watercolors.

Moving Still Life   53x6 mixed media  $4800

When I graduated, I moved to Washington state to live by the mountains and ocean. I also continued pottery. My first special education job was with severely disabled adults who had spent most of their lives lying on institutions floors. But a law requiring compulsory education had passed and being young, and beginning to drink coffee, I immersed myself in the job along with other recent graduates. We helped toilet train, teach very basic sign language and developed relationships with these young adults. Two experiences there really affected me. I realized that anyone can learn, no matter how severely disabled, and that play is very important. I have always viewed myself as a bit silly and have learned to laugh at myself. I wrote a curriculum to teach profoundly disabled adults to play and began using it as well as teaching other teachers.

Transparency  48x36 Acrylic   $2160

After 5 years in Washington, I realized I wanted to go back to school. I moved to San Francisco and started a doctoral program in Educational Psychology and Counseling and studied to get my Marriage, Family Therapist License. Continuing my interest in play, I wrote my dissertation on the difference between adult play and work. Six long years later I finished both. I did not have much play or creative time during those years.

Fast forward. I’ve been in private practice as a psychotherapist for over 35 years. I love the work and the people. It has been a perfect fit for me. Over the years, I dabbled some in creative outlets, but most of my time outside of work was raising my daughter and going to school and sports events. 

When I was 59, my father died. My sister in New York and I both started painting. The funny thing was we never talked to each other about it. I started taking classes and fell in love with everything about painting. Now it’s part of my daily life on an emotional and social level. I have also enjoyed the learning process that classes and experimentation bring. However, it was just this year (close to 10 years later) that I discovered how similar painting is to practicing psychotherapy. They both require creativity (thinking outside of the box), mindfulness, patience, rational self-talk vs catastrophic self-talk, being aware of feelings, community, letting go of outcomes and play. For the first time in my life, I feel I’ve integrated these two interests. I feel very lucky.

My style of painting is abstract expression. I hope the paintings evoke some thoughts or feelings for you. Even though my paintings are personal expressions, sharing the work is a privilege."

Click here to learn more about Dee's art.

To purchase any of the artwork shown, click here to submit payment online via PayPal. Include the artist's name and title of the art in the note field. We will confirm a "no-contact" porch pickup appointment with you via email.

Artist Spotlight - Jan Lainoff

Fluid Stroll   7x11 acrylic   $200
Pre-virus: Life is a straight forward line with complications few.
It’s only the occasional mild distraction that walks our imagination forward. 

Boundaries   10x10 mixed media   $200
Covid-19 birthed boundaries, constraints, shelter-in-place isolation 
and prayer-like precautions to ward off the unknown disease & contagious fear. 

"As an artist, I’m split:  I love words. I love art. I love reading.

Growing up in a Kentucky family of two boys & two girls, I was the oldest daughter.
The family ‘Artist’ was the youngest daughter. Me, well, I was 'The Mouth.' Sometimes ‘Big’ preceded ‘Mouth.' Affectionately, most days.

In high school, I became a speech student, careening between Debate & Oral Interpretation. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with voices and the power of words. Speech Student became Speech-Language Pathologist, where I commenced with purpose & passion. I could give voice to the non-verbal, whether it be sign language, picture systems, dedicated speech devices or today’s talking computers. The art my sister taught me, I used as a tool for self-expression, a bridge into the speaking world.

Then came retirement:  I love words. I love art. I love reading.

So… I paint. My canvases tell a story. Read what you will into them."

Procession   20x16 mixed media   $300
Mandated social distancing is amended into ‘physical' distancing 
as we rediscover WE NEED EACH OTHER in our fluid stroll. 
Our commute becomes a decreed six feet of separation or six feet under. 

Scarlet Horizon  11x16 acrylic   $200
Death mocks newspaper headlines. 
 The slot machine numbers become our shared horizon. 
‘How to’ 1,2,3,4: avoid, sidestep, dodge, escape... 
the promised... more deadly…. second wave?

Waiting for Godot   21x25 mixed media   $400
Life transmogrifies into a meme/silhouette, an existential waiting 
for the arrival of the elusive, the invisible... that’s already among us.

Click here to learn more about Jan's work.

To purchase any of the artwork shown, click here to submit payment online via PayPal. Include the artist's name and title of the art in the note field. We will confirm a "no-contact" porch pickup appointment with you via email.

Artist Spotlight - Pam McCauley

Detachment  -  20x20 acrylic and collage on wood panel  $550

"My memories of painting start at a young age. My mother was a painter so it was always a part of my life. I remember my parents dragging my sister and myself to art exhibits all over the Los Angeles area, particularly a Monet Exhibition. After graduating with a BA in fine art from Occidental College, I taught art in the Los Angeles Unified School system.

Releasing  - 12x15 acrylic and collage on wood panel  $200

I love the practice of painting. Moving and placing paint on a surface gives me a freedom beyond our earthly limits. Over the last 2 years abstract painting has become a passion and challenge. I like to translate emotions to the canvas using color, form, line and texture. For Abstractly Speaking, I have concentrated mostly on form and line, using collage and acrylic."

Sending Up A Prayer  - 12x12 acrylic and collage on wood panel  $150

Too Much  -  20x20 acrylic and collage on wood panel  $550

On The Loose  -  20x20 acrylic and collage on wood panel   $550

Learn more about Pam's work at Visit our YouTube channel to see our May/June virtual art show - Abstractly Speaking.

To purchase any of the artwork shown, click here to submit payment online via PayPal. Include the artist's name and title of the art in the note field. We will confirm a "no-contact" porch pickup appointment with you via email.