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"We're not exactly Palm Avenue,” says Stephanie Broche, pictured with Rocky Bentley, right, and Midgeann Schotsch, left. "You don't have to have a large pocketbook to walk into our gallery."
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, May. 25, 2011 6 years ago

Friends with vision

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

The Five Points Collective isn’t afraid of becoming a hangout.

In fact, it’s striving for that. 

How else do you explain the community skateboard that’s available to patrons hoping to hop a quick ride into downtown Sarasota?

You heard right: a community skateboard.

It turned up last month in the Five Points break room following a Thursday night live-music session.

After unsuccessfully trying to track down the board’s owner on Facebook, Five Points founders Stephanie Broche, Rocky Bentley and Midgeann Schotsch decided to give up their search and proclaim the skateboard “an in-house board” and offer it to anyone wanting a quick ride into downtown Sarasota.

“We’ve got a friend who comes by and asks if he can borrow it pretty frequently,” Broche says. “He brings it back every time.”

Located in a small oft-forgotten plaza next door to Porter Paints off U.S. 301, “the collective,” as its founders refer to it, is a five-minute skateboard ride from the heart of downtown Sarasota. 

A multi-hyphenate arts venue that functions as an art gallery, recording studio and bead store, Five Points occupies a 1,100-sqaure-foot space that once housed a day spa.

The gallery, which sits on the outskirts of Towles Court, is edgier than most of its neighbors. A hip, new outlier to Sarasota’s deeply rooted, grown-up arts colony, Five Points is decidedly less cutesy than the rustic, garden-chic galleries on Adams Lane.

Its name has nothing to do with downtown’s Five Points intersection, park or condominium. More poetically, it signifies the five points on a star. 

“Everybody wants to be a star,” says Bentley, who 25 years ago played in a Los Angeles “hair band” that fizzled when grunge rock came on the scene.

The self-described “grandpa” of the group, Bentley, 45, fronts the local band Rockstarr Bentley, in addition to hosting “The Rock Show” every Monday night on WSLR radio.

“The entire concept of the collective came from Rocky’s desire to have a clean space to practice his music,” Broche says. “We realized it’s no small affair to rent rehearsal space.”

Broche is Bentley’s girlfriend. A legal billing specialist by day, artist by night, Broche, 41, who specializes in large-scale mixed-media works that up until opening a gallery inside Five Points were rarely exhibited in public.

 “I looked inside the windows along Palm Avenue, and I could never picture my work there,” Broche says. “It didn’t fit the mold.”

The first thing she did upon opening her Rivoli Gallery inside the Five Points storefront was put her canvases on display.

One of her pieces, “Alphabet Soup,” takes up nearly half of the store’s front window display. Dubbed a “painted poem,” the work is a mix of metallic paint, hematite stone, papier-mâché, alphabet charms and glitter gel.

Broche, a Laurel Park resident, is among 25 artists represented by the Rivoli Gallery, the name of which comes from her Sicilian ancestors.

“In order to get it going we had to function differently than other galleries,” Broche says. “We’re a little more friendly to the average starving artist.”

Admittedly, Broche, Bentley and Schotsch only make up three-fifths of the collective. DJ Frankie Valencic (aka Frankie V) and drummer Michael Kiss are also members.

It was the threesome’s friendship, however, that took the collective from a distant dream to a functioning one-stop art/music studio.

“It’s been like kismet,” Bentley says. “Serendipity.”

It was only a month ago that they opened the space and less than a year ago that they outlined a business plan.

The idea grew out of a chance encounter last year with Schotsch, a 37-year-old mother-of-three with a fashion degree from the University of South Florida,Tampa.

Schotsch wanted to open a bead studio and jewelry store when she meet Bentley and Broche for the first time following a Rockstarr Bentley concert last October.

“The more we started hanging out, the more we realized we each had visions of having a place where we could do our own thing,” says Schotsch, a Gillespie Park resident. “We had so many ideas streaming through our heads.”

Adds Bentley: “We wanted to create something cool so the kids from Ringling would think it was edgy and the Towles Court crowd would still be comfortable.” 

Mission accomplished.

The group successfully established what fellow Sarasota art gallery owner Lori Frary refers to as a throwback to the “emporium business model of the 1970s hippie generation.” 

Lounging in a windowless break room, the friends are chatty, energetic and optimistic, still basking in the glow of a new business venture.

An Ace of Base remix pipes through the store, giving the place a ’90s record store feel. The atmosphere drums up the kind of nostalgia you don’t often come by in an iTunes world.

“This place has become our home,” Broche says. “At the end of the night, we’ll lock down the doors, listen to music and talk about our days. The next thing you know, it’s 11 o’clock and time for bed. That’s how good we feel when we’re here.” 

The Five Points Collective is located at 300 S. Washington Blvd. across from Payne Park. The studio streams live music by local bands every Thursday night on Tune in from 7 to 9 p.m. May 26, for Traphik 3:16 and June 2 for Hangman Jury.

VIDEO: Midgeann Schotsch takes us on a tour of The Five Points Collective. 

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