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Seminole Heights couple delivers exposure for aspiring artists

TAMPA — The god-like, teary-eyed figure holds the skull of what appears to be an antelope in Bekky Beukes' Sacrifice.

In another painting, Roxanne Gabriel's Awakenings, tree limbs spring from a valley, seemingly reaching for the sky with long, spindly fingers.

These works of art don't hang in the halls of one of Tampa's well-established museums or in the home of one of the city's wealthiest art collectors.

But some day they may move from the Hidden Springs Ale Works bar to one of those loftier placements thanks to the work of Tim Gibbons and Jayne Lisbeth.

The Seminole Heights couple, owners of the Funky as a Monkey Art Studio, has created a business connecting artists with bars and restaurants where their work can be displayed for sale.

Over the past three years, they have promoted the works of about 300 local artists on the walls of Bamboozle Cafe, Bamboozle Tea Lounge, the Bunker, Hidden Springs Ale Works and Pinellas Ale Works.

"There are so many ways that art inspires and enhances people's lives," Lisbeth said. "We want to get local art in front of as many people as we can."

Set by the artist, the price of paintings start at $50 and span upwards of $1,000. Works are displayed at a venue for 30 days. Through the exposure, artists sell between 10 and 12 pieces each month. If a piece is sold from one of the restaurant galleries, the studio takes a 20 percent commission.

However, the majority of the artists displayed are Gibbons' students from the Life Enrichment Center in north Tampa. Two of them are Emily McNiel and Francine Bauer, who started taking art classes at the center about five years ago after their children graduated from high school.

"I was an empty-nester," Bauer said. "It was time to start living my life again."

Bauer and McNiel have sold several paintings through the studios.

"I credit a lot of it from Tim and Jayne for being so supportive and encouraging," said Bauer, adding that she would not have started selling her works without their connections.

Rather than identifying as housewives, they are now professional artists. Bauer sells her abstract paintings for more than $1,000. McNiel's bird paintings go for at least $500.

"My prices have gone up and up and up," which has largely priced her out of making sales at bars and restaurants, she said. "I need to get into galleries."

Dorothy Cowden, the curator of the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery at the University of Tampa, said that artists typically market themselves to independent shops and must front the money to frame and mount the paintings.

"Most artists don't think about selling," she said. "They just make art. You make it because your heart tells you."

Many full-time artists in Tampa must teach in order to make ends meet, she said.

"Professionally speaking, the ones who are dedicated, you see them fly," Cowden said.

Contact Alli Knothe at aknothe@tampabay.com.

Seminole Heights couple delivers exposure for aspiring artists 08/26/16 [Last modified: Friday, August 26, 2016 6:40pm]
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