Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Village of the Arts/Bradenton, Florida

We are now settled into a five-week stay in Sarasota having successfully escaped the Colorado winter storms and the cross-country drive. While we have spent time in Sarasota before, this was the first time we visited Village of the Arts in Bradenton. Our visit was for a book signing of “Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers” at The Village Book Store by Murray.

What a delight. The ArtWalk Guide, published quarterly, describes how the village began.

In the Summer of 1999, the Artists Guild of Manatee, Inc. was formed to establish the Village of the Arts in Bradenton. The dream was a community where artists of all disciplines could live, work and prosper. From just a handful of artists, there is now a community of studios and galleries, many of whom are open to the public during the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon ArtWalks.

What really impressed me as I explored the area and talked to some of the artists was the warmth and enthusiasm they conveyed. I loved the variety of different art forms and styles. There are also several fun places to have a bite to eat or a coffee, as well as the delightful independent bookstore that has a huge collection of books of local poets, and sponsors a writer’s group.

One of my favorite stops was to the Rose/Giles Studio. Herbie Rose was my Mom’s first art teacher and it was fun for my Mom to share with him how his classes had started her in watercolor, and how much she was enjoying painting. The gallery features his “vibrant watercolors” along with those of his wife, Graciela Giles.

The Village is adjacent to an industrial area and run down section of Bradenton. It is an effort to add new life to a depressed urban area. It reminded me of downtown Jersey City that we moved to in 1986. We watched the explosive renovations and gentrification that occurred over the eighteen years that we lived there. Village of the Arts also has this potential. The idea of being able to live, paint and exhibit in the same space certainly has its appeal.

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