The new director of the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery says the "treasure trove" could turn the district into a cultural hub. But first, she said, it needs a new look.
"The gallery is 10 years old and has been in need of refreshening and updating," said director Bonnie Bratby-Carey, 70. This week, she said it's "all hands on deck" to renovate the gallery before the new look is unveiled when the next exhibition opens Jan. 10.
The project is part of Bratby-Carey's ultimate plan.
"It's disconcerting when you hear someone say 'gosh, I didn't even know this was here,' " she said. "We want to change that."
Bratby-Carey has worked as the gallery's director since Sept. 30, after Shirley Pheasant, president of Greater New Port Richey Main Street's Executive Board of Directors, under whose auspices the gallery falls, asked her to fill the position. It opened when previous director Nancy Ciesla resigned to accept a new job. Bratby-Carey previously worked in marketing, for corporations including DirecTV and Media General. The gallery gig is the first of her professional pursuits that affords the "opportunity to combine my business and marketing skills with my avocation, if you will, of the arts — visual and literary."
Before Bratby-Carey accepted the position, she frequented the gallery as a volunteer, an art patron and an art lover.
"I have a degree in fine arts," she said, however, "I never became a professional artist."
Her work at the gallery is fulfilling, she said. She sets artistic direction and policy; is responsible for communications and marketing; builds relationships with affiliates, members, sponsors and other community organizations. And she reminds art patrons: "What we have in the gallery is for sale."
Selling the art is part of her job, too, as is providing a place for artists to network.
"It's really great to be around people who have a constant flow of innovation and creativity," she said. "There is an extraordinary wealth of talent in our area."
In the new year, Bratby-Carey intends to promote local talent in ways the gallery already has used, and in new ways, too.
The gallery will continue having monthly themed exhibitions, which feature art by local professional and student artists, of media including painting, sculpture, pottery, stained glass, quilting and jewelry. The gallery might introduce artists "who specialize in digital art and some new artistic endeavors," too.
New to the gallery are what Bratby-Carey calls its "extended galleries," which are art displays off-site, at the Homewood Suites in Port Richey and at a Wells Fargo office in Trinity. More extended galleries are yet to come, she said, and the art in them likely will rotate every six months.
"We've got a jewel in our downtown area, for not only the visual arts, but also the literary arts," she said.
The gallery aims to host its evening with the author monthly, to feature readings of newly published works by local authors, with book signings and brief theatrical performances by theater groups. Children's book readings and classes for kids are planned for the summer. The gallery welcomes student volunteers, who are mostly high school seniors. Bratby-Carey oversees all of it.
But the part of her job that takes up most of her time this week?
"New flooring, new furnishings" and fresh paint, she said, to be followed by a new logo and a new website.
"Taking on this refurbishment is wonderful," said Kathy Detrano, president of the Pastel Society of Tampa Bay, a group whose art will be featured in the "Peace and Quiet" exhibition in January. "The gallery is in really good hands."
That's important, given the purpose Detrano says art serves:
"The arts in general help to uplift society, (and) help people appreciate things above and beyond their day to day problems," she said.
The gallery itself, she said, "is the seed of a showcase of rejuvenation for downtown New Port Richey, as long as it continues to have the support of the community."
Which Bratby-Carey continues to garner.
"It's very, very busy," she said. "But that's a good thing, and we hope it becomes even busier as we grow."
Arleen Spenceley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6235.