Cuttress opened a gallery in 1996 in the fledgling arts district, providing a showcase for emerging and established artists. In 1998, he proposed what became the Second Saturday Art Walk, a popular event that now regularly draws 5,000 or more people to once-moribund downtown Pomona.
Now Cuttress is retiring. He'll close his
"To walk away from here is going to be difficult," admitted Cuttress. But at 70, he and his wife, Roylene, want to close this chapter of their lives. Because art sales have slumped, keeping the business afloat has become a drain on the couple's savings.
But Cuttress wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
"I've never known the happiness that I've known when I'm surrounded by art and artists," Cuttress told me on the most recent Second Saturday, as dozens of people filled his gallery at
It wasn't hard to find some of those friends to talk with. I was barely in the door when
"He's wonderful, he's kind, he's generous," said Michalowski, who has known Cuttress since he was first poking around downtown in the mid-1990s.
Cuttress represented artists as their agent and would show their works at
"If he likes it, he'll put it on the wall. He's been doing it for 20 years," said Michalowski, who has a painting in Cuttress' current show.
Obviously he wasn't one to create business for himself.
"He was so honest with me," Earnheart said. They became friends, and for two years, she's volunteered to play the harp at his gallery on Second Saturdays, a touch that adds unobtrusive music, and class, to art openings.
"The loyalty they've shown me over the years is incalculable. To have them here tonight is heart-wrenching," Cuttress said.
One of those artists,
"I'm really disappointed to see this go. It was really the anchor for this whole Arts Colony," Sheffer said.
Cuttress can seem fearsome. He's 6-foot-1, bearded, typically wears a black T-shirt and has a deep voice -- and a bottomless well of opinions.
"The first time I met him, I was intimidated by him," said
Moore, an abstract painter whose work was championed by Cuttress, said his friend's tastes are wider than his. "He's got a panoramic eye," Moore exclaimed.
An electrical contractor living in
He was introduced in 1994 to
Cuttress was receptive but wary. He spent a year visiting downtown and talking to people before deciding to invest his time and money.
"I began prowling the streets here at all hours. Sometimes I was here all night," Cuttress told me Monday. "You could shoot a cannon down
Undaunted, Cuttress and Roylene, a mortgage banker, toured the former
Yet Cuttress could see the potential.
"I told my wife, 'This is where we want to be.' I remember looking at her and seeing the color draining from her face," Cuttress recalled.
The building now houses a wine bar, the dA
"I'm sad to see George go," said
The monthly art walk came about when Cuttress, taking a cue from other cities, strong-armed galleries into coordinating their openings for the same night each month to better attract art fans and regular folks.
"It wasn't an instantly popular thing," Tessier recalled. "He just charged ahead and wore people down, and now it's something we take for granted." Other cities have sent delegations to Pomona to see how to run an art walk, Tessier said.
"He's one of the godfathers of the neighborhood," Tessier said of Cuttress. "The Arts Colony we love today wouldn't have come out this way without him."
Cuttress isn't going away, which will be either good or bad news depending on how you feel about him. (I've known him a dozen years and think he's great.)
He hopes to curate occasional shows at the Downtown Center, and Tessier will give him office space to work on a long-term project to pump new life into the Arts Colony concept, which has faded as bars and nightclubs have ascended.
The past 20 years, Cuttress reflected, have been "this rollercoaster" of highs and lows. "The only thing that's been stable and successful is Second Saturday," he said. "We have to do something drastic."
He's retired, but he's not done yet.
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