The number 86. It’s the common thread that unifies the otherwise eclectic art collection, an idiosyncrasy of Brook Dalton’s underground home-gallery in East Ventura. All the works on exhibit at Gallery 86 integrate the numbers in the unique visual style of each artist, at Dalton’s request, creating a fun thematic tidbit that involves his visitors in a fun quest for the sometimes-elusive integers.

By opening up his home to the hundreds who visit it, Dalton has bypassed the need for a traditional commercial gallery space. “I’d rather not adhere to any ritualistic expectations of sending out invites and offering wine during the reception,” he says. He hopes to build a community of artists and art lovers, and expose his visitors to innovative, cutting-edge art. “My motives aren’t to profit — I would never sell a piece — but to promote good art and a sense of community.”

An unpretentious musician and avid art collector, Dalton has been contributing to the underground art scene in Ventura for the past 13 years. He has consistently commissioned, and been gifted, artworks for his gallery from artists all over the world.

Gallery 86 is an eclectic permanent collection of counter-culture artwork where he and his four roommates hold informal art gatherings several times a year. “I think it takes a superpower to be an artist,” he says. “To be able to translate a thought onto a painting is admirable.”

Historically, such was the conventional way of exhibiting art until the idea was borrowed by art dealers and transformed into what is now the modern gallery space tradition, where artists are subjected to a set of regulations and strictures. Like Dalton, local art patrons are redefining the art market by taking it back to its origin: home galleries and live-work studios.

Similarly disenchanted by the politics of the mainstream art scene, the Green Art People, a nonprofit arts organization founded by Tim Beyer and Lisbet Frey, conducts weekly art salons — cozy gatherings around a fire — in the newly named Boho Alley off Ventura Avenue. Hoping to bring back the camaraderie of an underground bohemia, it offers support and services through its workshops and soon-to-be multipurpose creative center. “A nonpolitical, all-inclusive, underground art scene, a place to break bread with each other, is the key to revitalizing our arts community,” offers elle je’, a mixed media sculptor and member.

What has defined the local art scene of the past decade is a sense of cultural complacency that undermines the artists’ abilities to produce edgier, thought-provoking work. “We don’t need shocking work,” Dalton offers, “but edgy and smart — work that is more fearless.” Undoubtedly, a revitalized local art scene can be realized when artists and patrons can find a common ground in integrating innovative ways to meet an audience with an ever evolving sophisticated taste in art.

The objective of these nonconformists is to find a nonexclusive, less contrived model that reaches a greater audience. Clearly, it’s working: Dalton often arrives home to find packages containing submissions to his gallery, and the salons are thriving. “The frustration can be an impetus,” encourages Dalton. By allowing alternative venues to work as credible exhibiting spaces, the old paradigm is “eighty-sixed” and a milieu of greater artistic independence can come to the surface.   

For information about Gallery 86, visit or e-mail The Green Art People can be found at 140 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura, and on Facebook. Their “Show & Tell” evenings with live entertainment followed by conversation around the fire, take place Wednesdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m.