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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2016 3 years ago

Makers’ Mark: Sarasota's underground artist collective

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Central Avenue Makers Space crafts a connection to history with repurposed art.
by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Stepping into Central Avenue Makers Space is like walking into another world. At first glance, the unassuming warehouse, which is tucked away a few blocks north of the Rosemary District, doesn’t look much different than most of its neighboring industrial buildings.

On the other side of the door, however, lies a quirky, eclectic combination workspace and hangout, which serves as headquarters for a new underground Sarasota artist collective, called the Central Avenue Makers.

Half the space serves as a common area — a charming artists’ haven, packed with musical instruments, handcrafted tables and chairs and a stocked bar, built from salvaged wood and tin roofing.

The other half is a 5,000-square-foot warehouse filled with large-scale woodworking and metal projects and an assortment of power and hand tools.

Central Avenue Makers Space features decór from its own artists.

Here, Shawn O’Malley, Victoria Arendt and five other artists and craftsmen gather to create their various works, including furniture, upcycled decór, paintings, forged iron and a variety of other crafts.

More importantly, says O’Malley, the artists in the collective are putting forth a message of sustainability and cooperation.

“What we hope to do here is two-fold,” he says. “We all have a huge respect for the environment. We want to show people that you can create art from repurposed materials, and that you can make something beautiful in a sustainable way. Our other focus is cooperation. We want to shine a light on up-and-coming underground artists, and we want to provide a place where people can come learn how to use these tools to make their own art.”

Victoria Arendt puts the final touches on a recent painting.

CRAFTED WITH SOUL

The collective’s roots can be traced back to a little over a year ago, when O’Malley and Arendt met while working at Sarasota Architectural Salvage. O’Malley has leased the warehouse as a workspace since 2012, but over the course of the last year, he and Arendt have stepped out on their own to pursue Central Avenue Makers as a serious endeavor.

Arendt, a painter who had just moved to Sarasota from California, was looking for studio space, and O’Malley extended the invitation to work with him in the warehouse.

With their new artist collective, Central Avenue Makers Space, Shawn O'Malley and Victoria Arendt hope to promote sustainability — and Sarasota's underground arts scene.

It didn’t take long for the two to realize they had a shared vision.

“We’re both fascinated by history in our work,” says Arendt. “We have an affinity for keeping the memory of the past alive. There’s so much to be learned by exploring what came before us.”

Shawn O'Malley

O’Malley also has a fondness for history. Using salvaged scraps of wood, metal and antiques, he breathes new life into something old. He’s a woodworker by trade, and he looks the part. He’s burly and exuberant, and when he begins to describe his passion for his craft, even his untamed beard can’t hide his grin.

Blacksmith Bradley Dorrill forges knives, like this custom wrench/knife combination.

“Repurposed material gives people a connection to the past,” says O’Malley. “I love for my work to be functional. What was once an old gas pump can now be a humidor, or a whiskey bar. Something that could’ve just been garbage now has a new purpose. Especially with wood, there’s such a tangible connection to its history.”

O’Malley and Arendt are preparing for the collective’s upcoming inaugural show, titled “Devoured Fragments,” Wednesday, March 30. The show will highlight O’Malley’s recent work, as well as samplings from the other members.

Tara Piedra works on a woodworking project.

Arendt says the show embodies the group’s focus on being future-friendly, and she hopes to continue to draw new members of what she calls Sarasota’s underground arts scene.

“This won’t be your typical art show,” she says. “It’s going to be raw and gritty, and we’re a little off the beaten path. Not only will you be able to see the work, you’ll see exactly where it came from and how it was made. We want to open people’s minds to something new.”

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