DADE CITY — The first sculpture he made got thrown in the garbage.
But 20-year-old Aaron Coolidge wasn't dissuaded.
Instead he continued making sculptures, often welding together waste pieces of metal like he had first done in his agricultural mechanics class — even though his teachers didn't see the value in it.
Coolidge's persistence and creativity paid off Friday evening when he was among 25 artists featured at the grand opening of the Gallery. The new Dade City venue drew hundreds of people to its inaugural event. Coolidge displayed two of his metal sculptures, one of which was sold within an hour. The gallery also showcased work by such local celebrities as painter Pat Weaver and potter Jack Boyle.
The artists, who were organized by international artist and recent Dade City transplant Suzanne Lasher, have been working hard for the past six weeks to make sure the grand opening of the Gallery would be a success.
"People are obviously ready for this here," said Camille Hernandez, a city commissioner and facilitator for the Dade City Youth Council, which collaborated with the artists on the gallery opening. The space was donated by Camille Hernandez's husband, David.
"It's about sustainability," said David Hernandez, who is hoping that the success of the Gallery's opening night will be an indication of future community support.
"I'm really pumped about this," said artist Joe Geiger, a Dade City native who's had shows all over the world. On Friday, he showed his nude drawings in Dade City for the first time.
"I believe they'll be well-received," said Geiger, who taught art at Saint Leo University for 33 years. "Nudes really show a person's character and attitude."
Geiger said he was happy to have a hometown gallery to display his work, which also includes etchings, engravings and watercolors.
"We have enough artists in Dade City to do this," said Dale Anne Laumer, whom many residents may know as the owner of Ivy Cottage Antiques in downtown Dade City.
But Friday evening was the debut of Laumer's watercolor paintings, a hobby she's been perfecting for 45 years but hadn't shared with the public.
"I paint for enjoyment," Laumer said. "I don't paint to sell."
But when Weaver, Laumer's painting teacher, suggested that she show at the Gallery, Laumer couldn't resist.
"When I walked in, I thought, I can't believe I'm here," Laumer said. "But I think it's a lot of fun. If we could have a place for fine arts in Dade City, it would be tremendous."