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Casey Alfstad, Sam Alfstad and Annie Mayme Alfstad at The Ice House. Sculptural pieces by Mark Anderson on display in "Sarasota Artists: All in the Family."
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 4 years ago

Backstage Pass: The Alfstad family paints a collaborative vision

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by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

“All in the Family” is more than The Ice House’s most recent exhibit, which features the work of Sarasota artists and the work of their fellow artist children.

But there’s another prominent family tied to this exhibit, which opens Friday, Jan. 10: the Alfstads. Sam Alfstad and his daughters, Casey Alfstad and Annie Mayme Alfstad, are the reason The Ice House debuted in November.

In January 2013, Sam Alfstad, 67, moved to Sarasota to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He had previously worked in advertising as a creative director and eventually founded a market research company, eMarketer. When Casey Alfstad moved to Sarasota in summer 2012 to work in the arts (she was responsible for SRQ Magazine’s Saturday morning editorial cartoons), Alfstad decided to plant roots, as well. 

Annie Mayme Alfstad, the 28-year-old business-minded daughter, was living in New York in 2012 working at eMarketer. The trio doesn’t remember the specific details, but somewhere along the line they began to envision founding a production company in Sarasota. On Nov. 25, 2012, they met at Sam Alfstad’s home in New York for a first official meeting.

“The thing that got us all excited was the concept,” says Annie Mayme Alfstad.

They pictured a production company that would re-imagine how to make and market art. They pictured a studio space where artists could collaborate on one topic.

“Most artists working independently go into the studio (to work), then pop out with piece and say, ‘What do you think?’” says Alfstad. “And most people don’t know what to think.”

Alfstad says it’s like when he was a creative director and had to focus his artists on one idea — narrow confinement and collaboration was how the artists worked best.

In January 2013, the Alfstads rented a studio space at 1421 Fifth St. They gathered a group of local artists, freelancers and Ringling College of Art and Design students who began creating work in March 2013 for what would become “Reimagining Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: 2014” (the February 2014 exhibit). That’s when Alfstad realized they would need a place to showcase the work. Before that, The Ice House wasn’t even a thought.

The three Alfstads first envisioned a pop-up gallery, when Casey Alfstad stumbled across the old icehouse in the Rosemary District last summer. Back then, it was being rented as a furniture-upholstery and consignment shop. It had a contemporary feel — white 13-foot-high walls, cement floors and the perfect rough-around-the-edges quality reminiscent of major contemporary galleries in Los Angeles and New York. It had a room they could revamp into an educational room to tell the story and context of the featured art.

“It was perfect,” Casey Alfstad says. And the Alfstads’ business plan worked out perfectly, too: Alfstad would oversee the whole company, Casey Alfstad would run the studio space, and Annie Mayme Alfstad would run the gallery.

“Reimagining Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: 2014,” which opens Feb. 6, will be the Alfstads’ realized vision. There are about 15 visual and dance artists represented who use a variety of mediums — seven are in house, others are local collaborative artists, and some are internationally based. They created appropriations of the late groundbreaking artists’ (O’Keefe and Stieglitz) work using modern technology and techniques to create new pieces.

“We’re trying to re-imagine something that’s been there, but hasn’t been fully realized,” Annie Mayme Alfstad says of the model they’ve formed.

“It’s based on an ideal rather than a profit plan,” Casey Alfstad adds.

Just as the Alfstads combined their unique talents and visions to create Alfstad& Productions and The Ice House, the artists do the same.

“We think there’s room in the art world for other models and other ways to go,” Alfstad says.

IF YOU GO
Sarasota artists: ‘All in the Family’
Featuring the work of the Andersons, Deans, Lindhardts and Strenks
When: Noon to 6 p.m. from Friday, Jan. 10 through Sunday, Jan. 19
Where: The Ice House, 1314 10th St.
Cost: Tickets are $25 for opening night gala, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10. General admission is $10.
Info: Visit alfstadand.com.

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