He’d spend hours painting as a kid. He’d attend live theater as a high schooler. And as a college student in Cleveland, Ohio, he’d drive a charter bus to the city’s art museums, attend live theater shows and paint in his downtime.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve promoted the arts,” he said. “It’s a vibrant part of our social fabric. So all those things came together. And I became more and more aware of the need for art in our culture. There was very little being done in the way of art. And there’s still more to be done.”
Today, at 76, he holds fast to that same vision: To promote art and culture whenever and wherever he can. It’s why he stepped into his latest role as a member of the City of Brentwood’s five-member Arts Commission. And he’s entering his new role with big plans for public art in the community. He’s a former member of the board of the nonprofit Brentwood Art Society, too, so the responsibilities are nothing new for him.
But his position as an appointed city arts commissioner comes with a different focus – bringing sculptures, murals and events for the public to enjoy. The commission’s projects are funded by developer fees and special taxes, so it doesn’t come out of the city’s general fund, Gaughan said.
Along with Gaughan’s appointment, the city renewed the term of the group’s chairman, Danny Senn.
“When I heard there was an opening, I had to take it,” said Gaughan, who recently founded the Brentwood Theater Company.
It’s a natural fit, considering he’s been involved in the city’s art community since moving here about nine years ago.
The Marin County transplant – and native Ohio resident – brought his passion for all things creative to the far East Bay. That was after years living in the North Bay, where he earned a couple art-related associate degrees from the College of Marin.
Once in Brentwood, Gaughan struck up some local open mics, helped organize art, wine and jazz festivals and brought live theater to the developing area. He sells his paintings, ceramics, pen and ink and watercolor work through his own company, Studio 51, which he founded in the mid-1990s. And he connects artists with the community through something he calls the “artist’s open studio,” basically a coalition of dozens of people who take self-guided tours to art studios from Discovery Bay to Pittsburg.
“I saw how much it added value to the community,” Gaughan said.
Especially to the East Bay, where urban sprawl outpaced cultural growth, he added.
The self-dubbed arts activist lived a creative double life, making bank as a marketing professional by day and tapping into his creative side by painting, performing, doing voiceover work and other artistic pursuits in his downtime.
“It’s always been a part of who I am,” he said. “I am, by nature, an activist.”
One thing he’s particularly passionate about is bringing art and theater to more young people, something he does by volunteering for the Brentwood Teen Theater.
What the city commission plans to bring to Brentwood this year is a bit of an unknown at this point, Gaughan said. He attends orientation this week. But what he does know is that there will be more live performances. He’ll focus, too, on bringing more sculptures to downtown and possibly more murals, like the new one at Brentwood’s just-opened City Hall.
“We just want to add value and culture here,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of that effort.”