For the past several weeks, diners who have popped inside the Rising Sun Cafe for a quick latte and banana-nut muffin have been treated to a feast for the eyes as well.
The once unadorned brick walls of the establishment have been transformed into a vibrant gallery of original artwork — oils, acrylics, watercolors and charcoal sketches — all done by local artists. The display, says cafe owner John Callea, adds more than colorful touches to the cafe; it brings an air of sophistication.
"People tell me it makes them think of a little bistro in New York or Chicago," Callea said. "It goes to show that art conveys the kind of atmosphere that customers love to be part of."
Ten years after the Hernando County Fine Arts Council launched its "Art in Public Places" initiative, the effort to introduce local artists to people in the community appears to be working well. With the addition of the Rising Sun Cafe in May, there are now 10 places around the county where the public can go to view paintings and sculpture, including the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery. More are on the way, said Lynne Simone of the Spring Hill Art League.
"It's an idea that works well for everybody — artists, venues and especially the public," said Simone, who helps to coordinate the cooperative efforts of the art league and the fine arts council in placing the art exhibits. "When a community supports its artists, everybody wins."
Indeed, short of having a dedicated art colony where painters can create, show and sell their works, Hernando has had an art scene more catch as catch can when it comes to garnering public exposure. Except for the Brooksville City Hall gallery and a couple of annual art festivals, county artists have had precious few venues in which to ply their creativity. But that all may be changing, says Spring Hill artist Fred Mannarino.
A former commercial artist who moved to Spring Hill in 1989 to pursue his passion for cubist painting and sculpture, Mannarino said the community appears to embrace art more now than it used to.
"It's taken a long time, but we're finally seeing some windows of opportunity opening up that weren't here a few years ago," said Mannarino, who has had his works shown at several public art displays in the past couple of years. "It used to be that you might sell a painting because the colors went with the couch. Nowadays, my audience is mostly younger people, the ones who seem to know what art is really about."
In the "Public Places" program, artists choose pieces that can be assembled to fit the space availability of the host client, Simone said. Displays like the ones found at Cortez Community Banks on S Broad Street and Spring Hill Drive typically have between 10 and 12 paintings. Every month, a new artist is chosen for each site.
Though some hosts collect a commission for selling works, others prefer to leave the dealing of paintings and sculptures to the artist and the potential buyer.
Easy Street Home Decor co-owner Pierre Desjardins said that although he collects a 30 percent commission on every sold work, selling art is not a moneymaker for his business. In fact, in the five years he has featured art displays in his store, he figures he has made no more than a couple hundred dollars in commissions.
"We do it simply because we like the arts and the people who make art," Desjardins said. "Our hope is that someone will come in and see a painting that they feel adds joy to their life. To me, that's what art is all about."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.