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  1. Visual Arts

New director wants New Port Richey gallery to be accessible to all artists

Fran McLean’s work has been featured on gallery walls and in art centers from Dunedin to Fort Pierce.
Fran McLean’s work has been featured on gallery walls and in art centers from Dunedin to Fort Pierce.
Published Jul. 22, 2015

NEW PORT RICHEY — Beyond providing a showcase for paintings, drawings, photos, sculptures and jewels crafted by local and international artists, the new director of the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery aims to provide the community with a free forum where people can come and enjoy the beauty of the arts.

"People who have never come into art galleries can bring their children. Suddenly their young eyes are seeing art for the first time. They know what a gallery is," said Fran McLean, an artist, art teacher and gallery volunteer who now also holds the title of executive director at the gallery. "Even people who are poor can come in, and art makes them so happy."

The new director of the gallery, at 6231 Grand Blvd., created her first work of art more than 50 years ago and has served as a gentle guide and teacher for other artists for nearly two decades.

"I think it was at the age of 9 that I first picked up a pencil and paper to draw fashion ads I saw in the paper. Soon, my parents bought me my first paint-by-numbers set," said McLean. "By 21, I was selling my paintings."

Somehow, McLean knew she had found her life's passion.

"I never had any schooling or training in art," she said. "It was just a gift. And we all should use our gifts."

McLean's colorfully painted renderings of landscapes and seascapes, inspired by scenic subjects found everywhere from Florida to Maine, have been featured on the walls of galleries and art centers from Dunedin to Fort Pierce. And they can be found on the walls and for sale at the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, where she worked as a volunteer for five years before assuming her current position, taking the reins from former director Bonnie Bratby-Carey.

McLean believes that the gallery, established in 2003 by the Greater New Port Richey Main Street organization, should serve all artists who want to display their creative gifts to the community.

"It's so enjoyable to see the work of so many artists on display here," she said. "I get to see their work on a daily basis, and be able to promote artists. … I know how difficult it is to have your work seen, and I want to help them."

As part of the gallery's August exhibit, "Light and Dark/Sunshine and Shadow," artists were challenged to create artistic scenes within the confines of shadow boxes, with "artists going out of their creative box to create inside a box."

McLean continually challenges artists to paint outside the box, and even hosts an Artists Challenge Group every month at the gallery. Next month's meeting will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 12.

"Each month we encourage artists to fit an artistic challenge into their artwork, whether it's painting, photography, sculpture," she said. "We might ask them to incorporate sunflowers, for example."

McLean also teaches art classes at the gallery, which hosts outside exhibits at New Port Richey City Hall and other sites and displays work created by students at Pasco schools. Also exploring other facets of the artistic realm, she presents fine jewelry at the gallery and hosts jewelry-making workshops. On Aug. 18, Debra Pisner will present a jewelry workshop from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

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The gallery hosts events to promote the literary arts. McLean will host Author's Night with Irene Patino from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 21, a publishing workshop with author Laura Annan from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 26 and a Poets Point and Old Time Radio Players performance from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28.

Also featured in coming months will be arts-centered fundraisers to benefit nonprofit organization. And, as a nonprofit organization itself, the gallery is seeking sponsors to support its programs and exhibits.

Regardless of their favorite artistic medium, McLean feels everyone will find something to like at the gallery.

"We invite them to come in," she said, "and be surrounded by art."

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