Most visitors to Downtown Sanford find themselves admiring the incredible, innovative art work of the artists at Gallery on First…but not all of them know it! Gallery on First (or GoFi, as we all call it downtown) brings together the minds of 11 amazing artists, each of whom shares their unique perspective through their working studios, which are located in the same space as Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery. That’s right, each time you enter 211 E. 1st St (also known as the “big yellow building” next to Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe), you’re actually experiencing two galleries at once: the folk art heart, curated by owner Jeanine Taylor, hugged on all sides by the studios of the Gallery on First artists.
Don’t miss Gallery on First’s Annual 100 for $100 show on April 22nd-24th!
“I’ve been at Gallery on First for almost 10 years because there is nothing else like it in Central Florida,” says Cherie Dacko, one of the gallery’s longest standing artists. Each space is bursting with the creative energy of its inhabitants, who fill their studios from wall to wall with their work, from original paintings, to expressive sculpture, to funky jewelry. Many of the artists work in a variety of mediums, harnessing the materials that inspire them to create pieces in their own distinct style. This makes Gallery on First a truly enticing whirlwind of color, texture, and personality, and a great resource for art enthusiasts.
Gallery on First stands out in the Sanford art community by hosting both the art and the artists themselves, many of whom you can catch spending time in their studios throughout the day, hanging new work or marketing themselves online. While some of the artists do complete work or teach students inside their studios, most utilize the space to display their art and as an opportunity to meet visitors wandering into the gallery. A good rule of thumb is that if the artist is in, they want to meet you, so don’t be afraid to say hello!
One of the coolest things about this gallery is how heavily involved many of the artists are in the ever-evolving Downtown Sanford art scene. “We love being part of the Sanford Art tribe,” says husband/wife duo Kevin and Debe Abbott, who share a window studio and are in their fifth year with GoFi. “Things are always happening in downtown and we are excited about the future of Sanford.”
Fresh on the Sanford art horizon is the newly revamped and revitalized ArtWalk, which debuted in January, with several GoFi artists at the helm of the project. GoFi artist and ArtWalk committee member Jennifer Lindquist explains that one of the challenges as a Sanford artist is the lack of existing infrastructure for support and unification of the arts community, something the committee is seeking to rectify with the new and improved ArtWalk. “The Welcome Center has recently taken steps to organize the monthly Art Walk, “ she says. “This might be the beginning of the kind of organizational-infrastructure needed.” March marks the ArtWalk’s most avant garde theme yet, “Art is a Drag”, featuring all aspects of the art of drag, which is sure to lend a provocative edge to our blossoming creative scene.
You can meet all of the GoFi artists at their annual 100 for $100 show, in which the artists collectively showcase 100 pieces of art, each under $100. This year’s theme is “Out of the Box”, and each artist will be given plain white boxes with which to do what they please, which, knowing this crowd, could be just about anything! This event draws collectors and art lovers of all walks of life who recognize the opportunity to purchase local, original artwork at an extremely affordable price. This is a wonderful event to become acquainted with the artists themselves, which forever creates a personal connection with any art acquired during the show.
Meet the Artists of Gallery on First
Here is a little bit about each of the 11 artists at Gallery on First, including some of their hopes for their future work and what they’re known for among the other artists.
Jennifer’s background as an elementary school art teacher perfectly reflects in the curiosity and enthusiasm in which she approaches her art and the Sanford art community. She specializes in large scale abstract pastel drawings and is also known for her expressive caricatures. She’s hoping one day to get the opportunity to create large scale sculpture in stainless steel and neon lights (which sounds really fun!). Jennifer is known as the “organizer” and “vision-keeper” of the gallery.
Debe largely considers herself a landscape painter, influenced by the sights and details of the natural world, and often paints en plein air in inspiring settings. Her art has been recognized in various competitions throughout her career, and Debe once served as an Art Ambassador to the US Embassy in San Salvador. She shares a studio with her husband, Kevin, at GoFi. Among the other artists, Debe is known for her paintings of whimsical interiors and decorative abstracts.
Also known as KV, Kevin is formally trained as a photographer, but today creates abstract metal sculpture and paintings inspired by the artists of 1950s and 60s New York and midcentury aesthetic. He and his wife Debe owned an art gallery in New York State for more than 25 years, and currently split their time between Sanford and Bernhards Bay, NY.
The Abbotts are known for their commitment to “artsy” happenings in Central Florida and for making to most of their shared studio space. (Love that chair, KV!)
Stewart captures the natural landscapes of the United States in vivid watercolors, which he believes enhances the beauty of his subjects. He’d like to branch out one day and try oil paint on copper. He hopes to impart the same serenity and positive feelings he has creating his work to the viewer, and is known to his fellow GoFi-ers for his “feel-good” art.
Calling her art “bent realism”, Cherie Dacko challenges notions of appearance with her work. Working primarily in paint and small scale sculpture, Cherie combines unusual elements with familiar scenes and motifs, and her colleagues say that in her art there’s always more than meets the eye. In the future she hopes to paint some historic-based murals, which would certainly lend a more artistic air to our town.
Bob loves to spend time in nature, and it’s easy to see this influence in his representations of Florida wildlife, seascapes, and landscapes. Bob is known in the gallery for his “art is work” outlook, which reflects in his devotion to spending productive time in his studio, including teaching students.
Anne-Marie’s art reflects the varied, creative life she’s led, which includes growing up in Morocco, joining the circus, and receiving a graduates degree in literature (in that order!). After teaching for two decades, she now marries paint, encaustics, and textiles in energetic mixed media pieces and is known among her fellow artists as the “Renaissance woman” of the gallery.
Cindy paints a variety of subjects in watercolor, initially inspired by the special effect of light over the Florida landscape and the beautiful colors and scenes found in our state. Her work captures places, people, and moments in time that may not be there in the future, and has been characterized as “classic” by the other artists at GoFi.
A lover of texture, color, and dimension, Tom creates pieces that literally stand out from their canvases. He layers materials that inspire him, from PVC, to fabric, to paper, to string, integrating them into complex, statement-making 3D pieces in bold colors. Everyone in Sanford knows Tom one of the “most seen” in the arts community, always willing to come out to support an artistic event, large or small.
Mark Seppala and John Sullivan
After working for Disney as the merchandise for 25 years, Mark is at last taking time to explore other aspects of his creative abilities (although he still freelances for the company!). He dabbles in paint, silk screen, puppet building, restoration, and other specialties, but one of his proudest accomplishments is a 6’ long replica of the Titanic, build to scale completely from scratch. Mark is known for his versatility and extensive use of materials in his work.
A self-taught digital artist, John transforms his own photographs into works of art, taking images and manipulating them into new versions of themselves. His subject matter ranges from scenes in nature, to street scenes, to architectural details of buildings. Other artists at GoFi consider John a “master in disguise” and one of the best people to talk to gallery visitors.
Mark and John share a studio space, and even though they have only been with GoFi for about 6 months, they have already been recognized as the “best collaborators” in the gallery.
The gallery houses a truly talented group of artists, each of whom enrich our downtown arts scene. I hope you are inspired to give Gallery on First a spin on your next visit to Downtown Sanford!
Mark your calendar: April 22nd-24th is the 100 for $100 show at Gallery on First! Call 407.323.2774 for more information and to reserve a place for the opening reception.