Ten years ago, Sheryl Cathers opened Dabble Art Studio in downtown Gilroy
By Kelly Barbazette
Meandering through Gilroy, it’s nearly impossible not to come across one of Sheryl Cathers’ art pieces. I love coming across one of her murals, like pleasantly finding an unexpected gift.
The 30-year Gilroy resident has literally made her mark on the Garlic Capital of the World, completing more than 25 public art pieces while teaching art for 23 years. Originally from San Jose, Sheryl, 57, and her husband, Jeff, settled in Gilroy in 1990.
“I wasn’t born and raised here, but I have some deep roots. I spent every summer here when I was a kid,” she said.
Her grandparents lived on the east side of town, and Sheryl recalls riding her bike on Walnut Lane. Although she remembers always drawing as a youngster, she didn’t become serious about art until high school. She completed independent study on art projects before getting married and becoming a stay-at-home mom.
The Cathers’ children, Josh and Marina, now 32 and 28 respectively, attended St. Mary School where Sheryl was a room mom. When the school’s art teacher retired in 1997, the principal asked Sheryl to be the art director. She happily accepted the position and taught art to kindergarten through eighth grade students for 18 years. My daughters attended St. Mary School and Sheryl’s art class remains one of their favorite classes. Their creations dot my bookshelves and nightstand.
“For me it was a blessing. It was ideal,” she said. “It was perfect. I gave my heart and soul to SMS. I could be there with our kids.”
Ten years ago, Sheryl opened Dabble Art Studio in downtown Gilroy. The business grew through the years, averaging between 50 and 80 students per week, about 60 percent of whom were home-schoolers. Teaching art to youths, Sheryl said, is where her heart is.
“I love the energy I get from kids. I love to see them excited about their own work,” she said. “They make me laugh every day. They have great insight. They keep me young. They teach me more than I teach them.”
She also started painting colorful outdoor murals throughout town. “I really enjoy doing that. It’s a time I can just lose myself in a piece of artwork,” she said.
You can see her artwork covering walls once plagued by graffiti and utility boxes throughout town. She has contracts with the Gilroy Police Department and the city of Gilroy.
Two of her most expansive murals can be found on the side of the Gilroy Library and the other on a wall along the Uvas Creek trail as it passes under Santa Teresa Boulevard. Another at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose resembles a giant postcard. For the Leadership Gilroy class project, she took on the challenge of painting a mural on the immense wall bordering the Gilroy Art Center’s grassy plaza. The theme was children participating in various artistic activities.
“It’s always fun to see something come alive on a plain wall,” the artist said of her murals.
Sheryl never follows a prescribed plan for her career, instead choosing to enjoy “riding the waves.” Since quarantine, she said she has pushed herself to focus. She shuttered her studio and chose a subject to paint that she’s passionate about — the ocean. “I’ve always loved the ocean. It’s where I go to restore myself,’’ she said.
She chuckled, adding she’s fortunate she married someone who loves the ocean as much as she does. Her husband Jeff is a sailing instructor.
“He’s introduced me to sailing,” she said. “We spend as much time on the water as we can. When you’re on a boat and have no sight of land you come to realize how magnificent the sea is.”
Sheryl chooses to work mostly in oils, using strokes to capture the movement of the waves. She said she loves the tradition of oil paint. “It evokes a lot of feelings of being connected with artists from hundreds of years ago. I love the richness of the color.”
Oils also allow her to add or subtract from her painting as it stays wet for weeks. “It’s a really glorious medium to work with,” she said. “As it dries and cures it looks the richest. And I love when my children walk into the studio and they say it smells like mom in here.”
Sheryl said she is enjoying focusing on what she loves. She encourages young people to search for what makes them happy and if something doesn’t work out, to not be afraid to change it.
“Be bold. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. They’re not going to fall into your lap. You have to work hard,” Sheryl said. “It helps to surround yourself with loving family and friends, spouses and partners.”
Sheryl specializes in oil paintings and acrylic, as well as small and large murals. She is available for private commission work. For details, visit www.sherylcathers.com.
Kelly Barbazette, a former journalist for Bay Area newspapers, is a freelance writer. She lives in Gilroy with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at [email protected]
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