Gilroy gallery opens in historic downtown hotel

WELCOMING SPACE Emily McEwan-Upright is the founder of Gallery 1202, which recently moved into The Neon Exchange in downtown Gilroy. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Emily McEwan-Upright envisioned a space where creative mothers and mid-career artists can display their work without the pressures and demands of a traditional fine art gallery.

The result is Gallery 1202, which recently moved from the Pixley House on Fifth Street in downtown Gilroy to The Neon Exchange at 7363 Monterey St. and celebrated its grand opening in October.

The gallery, named after McEwan-Upright’s first child’s birthdate of Dec. 2, was founded in 2017 to complement McEwan-Upright’s tax accounting office that she purchased from her mother.

McEwan-Upright, who had recently completed an artist residency in Texas, used the gallery to display her own work for the first year. In April, Gallery 1202 began showcasing other artists on a rotating basis. 

But the plan was always to open a larger, female-focused gallery.

Around the time McEwan-Upright was looking for a new space, she got to talking with Neon Exchange owner Toni Bowles, who is a client of McEwan-Upright’s tax service. Neon Exchange, a female-focused co-working space that recently opened in the historic Louis Hotel downtown, provides various workstations and desks that are available on a membership basis.

McEwan-Upright said she was eyed a 1,200-square-foot space on the first floor of the hotel that was originally planned as more co-working space for Neon Exchange. When McEwan-Upright approached Bowles with her idea of moving the gallery there, she said Bowles agreed that it was a perfect fit for the space.

“Toni and her family have been incredibly supportive in this,” she said. “She really believes in what she’s doing, and it’s definitely transferred over to my gallery. This whole thing wouldn’t have happened without their support.

“My family has been amazing. I have a great support network.”

McEwan-Upright said Gallery 1202 strives to support women artists in various stages of their careers, with a focus on those who find it difficult to balance their family duties with their artistic endeavors.

“I base everything on work that I believe in,” she said. “If I believe in someone’s work, and I believe that they have the passion to keep producing art, then that’s who I want. I want them to believe in what I’m doing as well.”

The gallery’s next show, “Show Me Your Neon,” opens Nov. 18 and runs through Dec. 31. As a celebration of Gallery 1202’s new location in Neon Exchange, the group exhibit will showcase images of women from all walks of life.

The gallery, with exhibits rotating every six weeks, will also be a space for special events. On Nov. 23 at 7 p.m., Gallery 1202 will host a host a performance by Flamenco dancer Savannah Fuentes, who will be accompanied by a music duo from Spain, Diego Amador Jr. and Pedro Cortes. 

“I want to be a community platform where people feel welcome, where they feel art is accessible for them to view,” McEwan-Upright said.

For information about Gallery 1202, and to purchase tickets for “Sky: An Evening of Flamenco,” visit

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