Menlo Park: Self-made gallerist launches new art, event space


Opening an art gallery and event space had been a years-long dream for Menlo Park's Jill Layman. As a single mom with little experience running a business of her own, though, she doubted whether it was possible.

But in late October, her dream came to life with the grand opening of A.Space, located at 773 Santa Cruz Ave., nestled between Penzey's Spices and The Pet Place.

The location doubles as an art gallery and events space, with the gallery's name paying subtle homage to Silicon Valley's obsession with the dot.

"I think, in general, for me and my peers, we're all sick and tired of driving to San Francisco for events. Traffic is so bad," Layman said. She's betting on people wanting to stay on the Peninsula for their events and has made the space available for rent for corporate and nonprofit events and parties, large and small.

The mother of three children, now 19, 16 and 14, she left a career in marketing and public relations to take care of her kids full time. Though she spent about a decade as co-owner of the Skipstone wine label of Sonoma County with her former husband, she had an extended gap in her time in the workforce, and had never launched a business solo.

To bolster her career skills, she participated in Reboot, a local program that helps people – mainly mothers – who have been out of the workforce for a few years to refresh their workplace skills. There, she learned how to more effectively network and use social media and programs like Excel.

When she learned about the space opening from the former lessor in July 2017, she seized the opportunity and began to prepare for the gig by ordering a stack of books on how to run a gallery from Amazon.

Launching an art gallery has lower startup costs than other businesses, like a restaurant, because the main inventory – the art – is generally on consignment from artists. Typically, if a piece sells, the artist and the gallery split the profits 50-50, though conditions vary.

She said she's also got support from her kids behind the scenes, who help run errands and manage social media.

Keeping the lights on at the gallery requires some savvy in choosing pieces that are likely to sell, she said. But she said she's got a natural eye for what looks good as a decorator herself, and she has come to know the community well as a writer for Gentry Magazine and a 17-year resident of the area. For instance, she said, her gallery features the equine sculptures of Santa Fe artist Siri Hollander to appeal to the horse lovers of Woodside and Portola Valley.

Her goal is to have "something for everybody's taste and everybody's budget," with price ranges on average between $5,000 and $8,000. (So, maybe not everybody, she acknowledges.)

A.Space is at least the fourth art gallery on Santa Cruz Avenue, but rather than see the others as competitors, Layman said her relationship to the other galleries is synergistic – she's gotten framing done at Peabody Fine Art Gallery and is in talks about joint exhibitions with Art Ventures Gallery.

Menlo Park is "very welcoming to art," she said, adding that she hopes the city continues to add restaurants and businesses that are more creative and experiential.

In the gallery's first two months or so, she said, there has been no shortage of artists seeking display space at the gallery. "Everyone loves the idea of the Silicon Valley market," she said, noting that the area has a reputation for having a population that's well-educated, affluent and enthusiastic about art.

The work she's chosen to feature so far is primarily abstract art, interpretational landscapes, and a little bit of realism. Her gallery currently features works by 12 artists generally from the western U.S. and California, including Jane Rosen from San Gregorio, Ann Hollingsworth from La Honda, and Dinah Cross, who lived in Portola Valley for 20 years.

Ultimately, Layman said, opening her own art gallery has restored her faith in her own competence and capabilities, which took a hit following divorce and years spent outside of the traditional workforce.

"You wonder if you can do it again," she said. "The answer is: You can."

Gallery info

A.Space is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment. 773 Santa Cruz Ave. Menlo Park, CA 94025. (650) 731-7730. adotspace.com.


Sign up for Almanac Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Orenchi Ramen expands to Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 5,802 views

Family Matters: Caring for the Dying, and Their Loved Ones
By Aldis Petriceks | 2 comments | 1,291 views

A fast approaching birthday
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 756 views

Couples: The ABCs of Love
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 571 views