A look back and forward

After eight years on the gallery scene along Pacific Coast Highway, Shane Townley is looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation in Laguna Beach.

But for the rest of the year, he's intent on a change of scene. And, for that matter, pace.

The owner of Townley Gallery, which has operated in downtown Laguna since 2008, recently announced plans to move to New York City this spring and launch a new gallery there. The deal isn't finalized yet, but Townley has a location in mind — and, regardless, he looks forward to a city with a much more frenetic vibe than Orange County's seaside art haven.

"We're going to love to come here on vacation," he said in his gallery last week. "But I'm still in my prime. I need to work. So I need to go to New York. When you step out of your loft or gallery, you don't need coffee anymore in the morning. Its like, everything is stimulating. It's the city that never sleeps."

Townley, who was born in upstate New York, recently sold the property at 570 S. Coast Hwy. to his business partner, Michael Roy. Soon, Townley Gallery's name will be changed to Gallery 570. Pam Squires, the venue's art director and the head of marketing for Townley's website, LagunaArt.com, will continue to oversee operations.

It will not be the only gallery — or memory thereof — that Townley leaves behind in Laguna.

In 2006, after running a San Clemente gallery for two years, he opened Townley Fine Art at South Coast Highway and Cress Street. A year later, he moved into his current location. Along the way, he founded the Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art, which he later sold to a partner, and the Surface Gallery, which has since closed.

His nonprofit, the Townley Arts Foundation, supports children's hospitals and arts education. Last summer, Townley Gallery launched an auction series to raise funds for it. The gallery director has even provided bottle-label artwork for a winery in Sonoma called Townley Wines — no family connection.

Last year, when gallery owner William DeBilzan found himself needing assistance — his sister, who ran the DeBilzan Gallery, had to move out of state — Townley stepped in as a business partner. DeBilzan, who plans to collaborate with Townley on his New York endeavor, said the two plan to host celebrity art auctions on the East Coast.

"He's young and very eager," DeBilzan said. "He wants to grow and build, and he's got good enthusiasm."

For now, Townley Gallery is busy hosting its final show: "Retrospective 2004-2015," which will run through March 30. Despite its title, the exhibit features works from the last year or two, some by Townley and some by other artists showcased at the gallery in the past. One piece, "Urban Landscape," was inspired by Manhattan and sports a pair of World Trade Center-like towers in the middle.

As Townley prepared to depart for the New York skyline, he admitted to bittersweet feelings.

"We're going to have meet a whole new set of friends out there, but of course we'll be back here for family," he said. "And in fact all of our friends already said they're going to come visit us."

If You Go

What: "Retrospective 2004-2015"

Where: Townley Gallery, 570 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays through March 30

Cost: Free

Information: (949) 878-1891 or townleygallery.com

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