Offtrack Gallery prepares for grand opening in new site

The San Dieguito Art Guild opened its first gallery on Highway 101 in Del Mar more than four decades ago. Since then, the nonprofit group of artists has grown to more than 200 members and has operated a gallery in nearly 10 locations from Del Mar to Encinitas. The guild will mark the grand opening of its newest location on April 24 at the Lumberyard Shopping Center in Encinitas.

The guild’s Offtrack Gallery lost its space on Second and D streets in Encinitas when a dental company bought the building in March. The guild board then voted to sign a five-year lease at the Lumberyard mall, where it already had a second satellite gallery, in hopes that this might be a more permanent home for art exhibits.

“We are excited to be in this new gallery because we have found a permanent home. Moving from location to location takes a lot of time and energy,” longtime member Grace Swanson said.

The guild has been on the move since its early days, said Swanson, who has traced the group’s history and its numerous moves.

In 1965, Del Mar artist Sue Beere wanted to start an art group, so she called together friends and neighbors to a coffee at her home. They formed the San Dieguito Art Guild and elected Beere as the first president. Some of the founding members had considerable art training, and others had none. The group met in members’ homes until a rental space was available. The first 100 members to join the new guild were designated charter members. These included Marjorie La Ray, Kirby Sumner, Lee Woods, Ann Knapton, Mavia L. Shortlidge, Ruth Roebuck and others.

The guild artists began showing their work on the lawn of the Old Del Mar Hotel. They raised enough money from the outdoor shows and commissions from dues and art sales to rent a small shop in downtown Del Mar, called the Blue Lantern, on Highway 101 next to the Chamber of Commerce. In 1966, the group moved into what is now the Del Mar Library, which it rented until 1969.

From there, the group moved into a tudor-style, three-story house known as the “Honeymoon Cottage” that was part of the Old Del Mar Hotel, and then into what is now the Del Mar Civic Center.

In 1975, the guild moved to Leucadia in a building behind the Corner Frame Shop. Then after a year in a building on Vulcan, the guild moved in 1982 into the downstairs of the old train station in Leucadia where the Pannikin Coffee House was and took over the Offtrack Gallery.

The Offtrack Gallery name stuck with the group, even after it moved out of the train station into other locations in Encinitas.

Over the years, the gallery locations have changed, but the mission has remained the same: to showcase the work of local artists.

“We want to give emerging artists an opportunity to show their art,” said Dave Ombrello, gallery manager. Ombrello was instrumental in securing the new lease and refurbishing the gallery with other volunteers. “The most exciting part of the new gallery is that the artists love it,” he added.

The 1,100-square-foot gallery has a contemporary look with an open ceiling and unique wall covering that makes a warm backdrop for the art.

The gallery bills itself as “The Biggest Little Gallery in San Diego,” showcasing the work of more than 100 artists in a variety of media — from digital art and watercolor to sculpture and jewelry.

Member artists can display their work for an average of about $45 a month depending on the size and type of exhibit. The commission charged on sales is 15 percent. Artists who show their work in the gallery take turns staffing it with volunteers.

“Many years of savings have allowed us to have this gallery now,” Ombrello said.

The guild’s income comes from four sources: annual dues, fees to display art, commissions on art sales, and proceeds from the annual fundraiser — the Mother’s Day Weekend Artists’ Studio and Garden Tour. The guild received a small grant from the city of Encinitas to fund the “Try It, You’ll Like It” workshop. Last month’s workshop allowed participants to try three new mediums, including watercolor, fiber arts, photography, gourd art, jewelry and pastels. The guild continues to offer quarterly demos at the gallery, which are free to the public.

“Our goal is to keep the gallery in one location for a long time,” Swanson said.

If you go
- What: Grand opening of the Offtrack Gallery
- When: 5 to 8 p.m. April 24
- Where: Offtrack Gallery, Lumberyard Shopping Center, 937 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
- Contact: (760) 942-3636,

16th Mother’s Day Weekend Artists’ Studio and Garden Tour
- Who: Hosted by the San Dieguito Art Guild
- When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 8-9
- Where: Self-guided tour of nine gardens/studios featuring guest artists
- Tickets: $20 at Offtrack Gallery and

Related posts:

  1. Off Track Gallery stages moving sale
  2. Hands On Cedros grand reopening celebrated
  3. Coastal Artists bring spirit to gallery
  4. Solana Beach artist wins show’s top prize
  5. Cedros North blossoms with Trios Gallery move

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