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Don Lawson, Artist & Gallerist

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Lawson Gallery

16300 Church St, Guerneville, CA


Telephone: 707-869-1099.

About Don

Don Lawson was accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology, but attended Queens College in New York and majored in Economics, with a minor in Art. He chose Economics because his parents, after immigrating from Ireland (his father was a farmer), did not encourage Art as a profession, yet he had some prestigious art instructors including John Ferren and Barse Miller. His twin brother and older brother were both active military personnel.

Don joined the Army Reserves as a supply clerk, and later worked in Advertising, and Insurance. It was when the insurance company sent Don to San Francisco for training as a special agent in the late 1950’s that he decided to leave New York and move to California. He sold greeting cards on the road for Gibson Girl cards and then went to San Francisco State to major in Art and get a teaching credential. In the background, Don worked multiple jobs at United Airlines for 32 years.

Art and history

Don opened his first art gallery in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco in 1962. The space had been a one-chair barbershop and became available for $55 per month. The business started with art, small furniture and a framing service. He then rented a second space and showed only art, opening with the works of Manuel de Silva. He eventually moved into larger spaces, later moving to up-and-coming South of Market in 1977 showing works from Robert Maplethorpe, Joan Brown, Ralph Ducasse, John Langley Howard, among others, and remained there until 1987. This was a booming time for the San Francisco art scene and the gallery was named one of the ‘ten best” by SF Magazine.

Lawson Galleries is located at 16300 Church St, Guerneville, CA. The gallery is 2 blocks north of Main Street and is open on the first Saturday of the month for the Guerneville Art Stroll (4-7pm) and by appointment. Email: or telephone: 707-869-1099. – Patty Bailey and Anna Narbutovskih

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