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From Canyon To Cove: Painful choices in the art world

December 22, 2011|By Cindy Frazier

Sometimes starting over is the only logical path for those in the unpredictable world of art.

German native Marion Meyer was planning to become a stewardess for Lufthansa when she took a detour to the Nellie Gail Ranch.

Meyer became an au pair for a family, and the mother of the kids she was watching was a hobby artist. As she tells it, that was how she discovered the world of art in Laguna Beach.

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Meyer started out in 1988 as an intern at a gallery on Forest Avenue, where she worked her way up to manager and stayed for nearly 10 years. The economy was good and people had money to spend on fine artwork by masters such as Picasso and Miró.

When First Thursdays Art Walk started in 1998, she was excited. Meyer became a key player in Art Walk and for years was the face of the program, making sure the press and public knew about special activities.

She met her future husband, Tom Cuddyer, at the White House in Laguna Beach, and they were married in 1990. By this time, Meyer wanted to invest in the gallery she had been working for — but floods and the 1993 fire put that investment out of reach.

Instead, she found an empty retail space on North Coast Highway that had been a travel agency, and she decided to design her own gallery with her name on it.

She had a simple mission for the new gallery: "I wanted to show artists who are still alive."

She selected artists "because they create something I like."

Marion Meyer Contemporary Art opened in 1998 and has been a fixture in the North Coast Highway "gallery row" scene for 13 years, showing contemporary, abstract and cutting-edge work.

But that will soon end. The gallery will close Jan. 15, and difficult as it will be, Meyer will turn over the keys to a new gallerist.

Like the original Forest Avenue gallery, the North Coast Highway gallery has seen its share of flooding and other problems. Rain severely damaged the roof and electrical system, and the gallery was forced to close for several weeks during the high-traffic summer months to make repairs.

She wasn't able to use the parking lot behind the building for a year while repairs were underway to the lot and to remove asbestos in the 1940s-era building.

And the economy of today is not what it was in the 1980s and '90s.

"It's much harder to sell art," she said.

Her husband had been putting money into the gallery until it became too financially risky for the couple.

Now Meyer is saying goodbye to the world she created and loved.

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