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New direction for City Hall art

“Art speaks to people, and that’s why we need it in our lives,” says new Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery coordinator Rachel Fogarty Oleson, 34.
“Art speaks to people, and that’s why we need it in our lives,” says new Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery coordinator Rachel Fogarty Oleson, 34.
Published Feb. 14, 2013

BROOKSVILLE — Rachel Fogarty Oleson knows how much Hernando County residents appreciate art. And as the new coordinator of the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery, she wants not just to heighten the viewing experience for visitors, but perhaps to expand their horizons by raising the bar a couple of notches.

Oleson, who succeeds Rhonda Hancock, who left the coordinator's job two years ago, admits she is still getting her feet wet in the part-time position. Today she will be on hand to greet participating artists for the gallery's Winter Art Exhibit reception, which begins at 5 p.m.

An ardent art admirer, Oleson, 34, said she is eager to start exploring a few ideas for when the gallery begins putting together its fall exhibit. Among her chief goals, she said, is to reach beyond the gallery's traditional Central Florida realm and attract other artists who want to exhibit their work.

"I appreciate the focus on local artists the gallery has always had," she said, "but I also believe it's important to branch out and bring something fresh that perhaps people haven't been exposed to. I think there are artists all over the state that would love to have their work exhibited in our gallery."

A reading and language arts teacher at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics in Spring Hill, Oleson is also a graduate student studying poetry and new media poetics at the New England College of Fine Arts. Married to noted Brooksville metal sculptor James Oleson Jr., with whom she owns the Oleson Gallery in St. Petersburg, she has been an art enthusiast all of her life and hopes to bring that perspective to the people who visit the City Hall gallery.

"Art speaks to people, and that's why we need it in our lives," she said. "One of the things that intrigues me about the gallery is that it brings the art experience to people who might not otherwise be exposed to it in their daily lives."

Oleson, who will earn $5,000 a year as gallery coordinator, said she wants to make the venue financially self-sustaining and perhaps even return some money to city coffers by hosting events such as juried art competitions and master artist workshops.

She also believes that public art can help to boost local businesses.

"I would love to see Brooksville sponsor a sculpture walk with maybe 10 to 15 works that could be changed out once a year," she said. "People are fascinated by outdoor art, and there are a lot of communities that have benefited from having it."

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.