How a Gilroy artist grew his business during the pandemic

When the pandemic hit, Nacho Moya knew he had to get creative to keep his art gallery and studio in downtown Gilroy afloat. So he did something that is perhaps counterintuitive in an age when resources seem scarce: Moya has started offering free virtual painting lessons.

Hundreds of people have signed up, looking for connection and inspiration amid the isolation and fear of the early days of the pandemic. Her social media audience exploded, and while Moya offered a free art experience to residents of the Bay Area and beyond, her list of paying customers also grew. Now he’s making big plans for the future of the Moya art gallery and studio.

Q: How did you learn to paint?

Nacho Moya: The dream started when I was in sixth grade – when I entered this art competition and won first place. My mom didn’t have the money to buy me art supplies, so I would just take a pencil or a pen and start drawing. At the time, there was no YouTube. I would go to the library to get some sketch books. When you have everything in your hands, it’s easier. But when you have nothing, you get more creative.

Q: How has your interest in art as a profession evolved?

NM: One day in 2016 I said, “I’m quitting my job. I have worked in retail for many years. I fight all the time. I’ll take the risk.

GILROY, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 12: Paintings by Ignacio Moya, also known as Nacho Moya, in his studio in Gilroy, Calif. On Tuesday, October 12, 2021 (Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group)

I started to draw, to post on Facebook, Instagram. It helped me a lot because I put things on the market. I used all the tools. I thought, “I want to take advantage.” I started doing errands. I said to my wife, ‘Look, I’m getting paid to do this. “

I started to organize painting parties in my living room. I was just posting it for friends on my Facebook and then these people started saying, “I want to party paint with you. I started posting photos on social media. Other people from different cities said, “I want to hire you.

In June 2017, I thought, “I have to find a place where I can organize events and attract more people. I was so happy to have opened my gallery. This is my dream. This is the vision I had when I was little.

I started slowly. I had to get involved in the community. During the pandemic, that’s when I decided to take the free classes. Now, for a lot of the big Bay Area companies, I have organized paint parties for them online. I do LA people and schools. All virtual. I did 300 free lessons. To support my studio, I tell people, “If you want to buy supplies, I have supplies available. “

Q: A lot of businesses are nervous about giving things away for free. Why did you think it was a good decision?

NM: Do things without expecting anything. Do it. I started helping people during the pandemic. Honestly, I get messages telling me that they are out of depression. Or people who are hospitalized or recovering from my classes. It’s my reward – hearing stories like that.

Q: Financially too, right?

NM: Yes, I am booked by all of these companies. They pay. They appreciate what I do. This is something that I really like. People value my time and my talent. Financially, it helps me a lot because sometimes I am booked for 300 people. I never thought I would earn that money.

GILROY, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 12: Ignacio Moya, far right, also known as Nacho Moya, gets ready for an art class via zoom in front of his painting of boxer Canelo Alvarez at his studio in Gilroy, Calif., Tuesday October 12, 2021 (Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group)

People started asking for paintings. I sell art, I do business here. But I give back. People thought I was going to stop doing free classes when it all started to open up again. I said, “Hey guys, I’ll go on, don’t worry.”

Q: There is so much going on online. Why do you think your lessons and your art resonate?

NM: The way I teach, I really interact with people, and I always say positive words. “Relax, don’t stress. Do your best. “They always see me so happy to do that. I’ve worked with kids who were at the border, kids at risk, kids on probation, kids who go to private schools too, so everyone.I also work with children with special needs.I love doing that.

Q: How would you describe yourself as an artist?

NM: I love to paint about what’s going on in the world right now – and also paint things about my heritage and the American dream. Sometimes people want to see me do more, like Chicano art and I say, “I grew up in Gilroy. I like to paint my two cultures now because I have my American and Mexican culture and I do both. I paint people who inspire me. Like José Hernandez, the astronaut.

Q: What do you envision for your studio and gallery space over the next five years?

NM: I visualize myself going around the place and doing shows and exhibitions – classes for large crowds. It will be my home, but my vision is to travel and keep my studio as a gallery. I kind of remember my early days. My plan is also to expand and open different galleries with my own art.

Q: It looks like the pandemic has been helpful for businesses in some ways because it has helped you grow?

NM: Some people say, “I’m not going to give away free things or waste time. Sometimes you think about going back but you go forward, you know?

Q: What else should people know?

NM: Sometimes I didn’t have the money to put gas in my car. We never had gifts for my children at Christmas. So now I’m adopting a family this year so I can buy gifts. This is what I will do every year. Now we live in a nice neighborhood. Safer for my children. Better at home. I drive a better car. It’s something I like to tell people. Not to brag but to let them know they can do it. I was there and I am here now.


Ignacio “Nacho” Moya

Position: CEO, Moya Art Gallery and Studio

Age: 39

Free art lessons: https://www.facebook.com/moyaartgalleryandstudio/

Place of birth: Guanajuato, Mexico

Birthplace: Gilroy


Five interesting facts:

  1. Moya, who has a wife and two children, enjoys playing basketball in her spare time
  2. He enjoys gardening and playing the piano for fun
  3. Moya speaks English and Spanish, and he wants to learn Portuguese or Italian
  4. He is a big fan of the Star Wars themed Lego sets
  5. Moya and her son watch movies like the Harry Potter series together


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