Nora Dougherty takes art on the road in mobile gallery

noraBy Kirby Scudder – Santa Cruz Sentinel

POSTED:   01/15/2014 05:40:16 PM PST
By 1950, the post-war economy was booming, and in the United States a huge middle class had been created. It was a generation interested in upward mobility and starting families. Suburbs cropped up surrounding the country’s major urban centers. Meanwhile a young writer by the name of Jack Kerouac was writing about a different America. Kerouac’s second novel underwent several drafts before he completed it in April 1951. It was first published by Viking Press in 1957 and was called “On the Road.” The book was an anthem of a restless and mobile America. It was the beginning of the beat and counterculture generations, with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry and drug use. The desire to explore the new highway- and car-rich country has been infused in the American spirit ever since.

Artist Nora Dougherty moved to Santa Cruz from the coastal town of Cape May, N.J., 15 years ago. She began learning the fine art of crafting jewelry first as an apprentice to a local jeweler and eventually through courses at Cabrillo College. Since then, Nora has been making her living as an artist selling her work through retail channels while participating in the annual Open Studios Art Tour. Nora eventually moved up the coast to a property a few miles north of Wilder Ranch. Last November after six months of renovation on an abandoned 1958 Kenskill trailer, Nora opened, a mobile art gallery. Today can be seen parked along the side of the road anywhere from Davenport to Big Sur. At a time when gallery space is expensive and hard to find, Nora is on the road with the work of local artists including her own traveling to places that one might not expect to find an art gallery.

I spoke with Nora about the mobile gallery

Kirby Scudder: How did the mobile gallery come about?

Nora Dougherty: Several years ago, I moved to a place up the coast from Santa Cruz almost midway between Santa Cruz and Davenport. On the property, it’s all old farm housing. It just so happens that about half the people who live on the property are working artists who have their own work spaces. I have been living and working there getting my work out in the traditional retail ways through shows and galleries. Our landlord is great and gives us a lot of freedom to create our own work spaces. Because we are located in a somewhat remote area I wanted to have a gallery on the property so that we could have regular hours for people to come by and see and buy the work of the artists that live there. At that time my friend had a trailer that he was getting rid of. It had been abandoned and used as a tool shed for a while. It was in really bad shape. I don’t have a lot of skills as a carpenter so I asked some friends to take a look at it. A friend and I cleaned it out and brought it onto our property where it sat for a few months. As I looked at it, I realized that I was determined to make it happen. Over about six months, I completely gutted it and remodeled it and eventually opened it in November of 2012. I called it because at the time I didn’t know all the ways in which I wanted to use it.

KS: As you bring the gallery to different places, what has been the reaction?

ND: In the beginning it took me a while just to get comfortable with not only driving and parking 40 feet of trailer and truck, but driving with fragile art on the walls. Almost every weekend I bring the gallery to locations along the coast and I feel it has been getting more and more successful. The combination of it being mobile and a gallery has lead to very interesting travel experiences for me that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I have had the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people and the response has been enthusiastic from everyone that has come into the gallery. Whenever possible I like to set up my portable fire pit and it allows people to have a different kind of art experience than they might otherwise have.

For more information about Nora Dougherty, go to

Comments are closed.