Ybor City has its gay-oriented bars, restaurants and shops. Now it has an art gallery devoted to gay artists.
Gallery Live opened a few months ago along 15th Street in the heart of what has become the GaYbor District.
Mathieu Stanoch founded the gallery with Stephen Moss and Steve Donahue, owners of the Honey Pot and G Bar in Ybor. Stanoch handled interior design for the clubs and wanted to find a space where emerging gay artists could create and display their work.
"I wanted to promote and give a voice to gay and lesbian artists who didn't have a venue before,'' said Stanoch, 26. "I didn't want it to be a special feature. I wanted it to bleed into the mainstream.''
The 3,800-square-foot gallery includes nine artist studios and an artist-in-residence gallery, which changes monthly. The main gallery features works by area gay and gay-friendly artists, among them Theo Wujcik. It's one of the few — and possibly only — galleries in the area to showcase gay artists permanently.
Stanoch spent two months gutting the former home of Creatures of Delight, which made and sold soft animated characters. He built white display walls, installed lighting and brought in sleek couches and crystal chandeliers.
Since opening in June, the gallery has gradually gained notice. All the artist studios are rented, and the monthly exhibit openings draw big crowds, with members of GaYbor District among the top supporters. On Monday, normally a slow business day, the gallery sold two paintings.
Prices range from $200 to several thousands of dollars for a large piece. Most of the artists are in their 20s, many of them friends and colleagues of Stanoch. They come and go throughout the week, giving customers ample opportunity to meet them and watch them work.
Cor Fahringer II is the youngest, at 18. He graduated from Blake High School's art program in May and recently set up a studio at the gallery. Having dedicated space to create his acrylic works on canvas and wood certainly beats working out of his bedroom. "I used to have to push my bed into the corner,'' he said.
Artist ChouChou Guilder said working alongside other artists inspires and motivates her. In preparation for her last show, she spent 36 hours straight working in the gallery.
Her only complaint? No air conditioning.