NEW PORT RICHEY
Every little city needs an art gallery. That was the simple thought behind the new Gateway Gallery and Emporium, which opened quietly on Sept. 2 with a "sneak peek" People's Choice exhibit, featuring the work of 31 artists.
The gallery, at 6219 Grand Blvd., is the creation of Lauren Carr, an artist who whips up quirky sculptures out of yard refuse and conversation-piece furniture out of recycled books and the like. Some might have seen her work at the former Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery. That gallery, established in 2003 by New Port Richey Main Street, was shuttered last year, to the dismay of some local artists, including Carr.
Within a month of that closing, Carr was searching for available downtown storefronts that could house a new gallery.
"Right off, I thought we had a building on Main Street, but it fell through," she said. "I gave up for a bit and figured something would come along and be available."
In the meantime, she gathered like-minded folks to form a planning committee. Photographer Bobbi Armour signed on as director. Fran McLean, who was the last director at the downtown gallery, came on as curator. When a storefront became available across the way from the Dulcet Restaurant & Lounge at Grand Boulevard and Missouri Avenue, Carr jumped on it. And when she heard about another open space a few doors down on Missouri Avenue, she signed a lease for that as well, thinking it would be the perfect spot for a teaching studio.
A grand opening is planned for Oct. 29, but the response from locals has already been enthusiastic, said Carr, noting that people had been popping in to see the progress of renovations weeks before the gallery opened.
First to be hung — from the ceiling, no less — was a great blue heron in flight named George. Carr created the large sculpture using ferns, palm boots and other yard debris, and carted it to the gallery in the back of her white Sebring convertible.
Submissions were plentiful for the first exhibit — close to 90 pieces, Armour said. "It's been a good way to get our feet wet."
Among them: a wood inlay artist from Tarpon Springs, a pencil artist from Sebring, another from Fort Myers, as well as area artists, who were required to submit new work that had not been previously exhibited locally.
Arnold Swepson of Land O'Lakes dropped off two life-size "robots" named Robert and Roberta that he built with metal inlays from recycled air-conditioning filters.
"This is great — just look at all the room in here," Swepson said.
The gallery will feature revolving exhibits and a featured artist. There are plans to reach out to art teachers at local schools so student artwork can be included.
The emporium will be stocked with an assortment of original art prints, handmade jewelry, sculptures, glass figurines, pottery, re-purposed furniture and other up-cycled items — all priced under $150.
The studio will open for classes on Oct. 3. One jewelry artist has signed on to teach on Wednesday evenings, with plans for more classes to come — including evening classes that might appeal to working people in search of a creative outlet.
"We hope to have (classes in) oil, watercolor, pastels, clay and acrylic painting, and possibly art therapy," McLean said, adding that art teachers can rent blocks of weekly time for $100 a month and set their own fees.
Add to that, poetry readings, skits by the Old Time Radio Group, an occasional book signing and musical events that were mainstays at the old downtown art gallery.
"We're filling a gap, pretty much," Carr said. "But it's always been a dream of mine to open a new gallery with my own works and also be able to showcase local Florida artists."
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.