As the sun sets below the Sarasota skyline Wednesday evening, most people are heading home after a long day of work. But inside the State of the Arts auxiliary space, Gallery C, work has just begun. A diverse group of artists of all ages are busily hanging and installing their respective works of art. And the art is as diverse as the artists themselves. Works range from ceramics, paintings, sculpture and photography. However, this multi-medium exhibition is even more unique in its concept. It’s a show completely organized by local artists for artists, a collective called SARTQ.
Founded in 2008 by local artists Tim Jaeger and Joseph Arnegger, SARTQ (a riff on Sarasota’s airport code) first started out as a casual visual artist forum in which artists could get together and discuss their latest works. It quickly expanded from the original duo to some two-dozen members representing all mediums. And with the advent of the economic recession and local arts organizations losing state funding and private galleries closing, SARTQ began taking showing its artists’ work into its own hands.
“Our mission was to stay in Sarasota,” says Jaeger. “What happened was you had a lot of artists without places to exhibit their works. It was a bit of a collective agreement among the group that we all got together and decided to create these temporary exhibitions in multiple venues while also providing education and outreach programming to the community.”
These pop-up gallery shows included exhibits at Art Center Sarasota, the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, G.WIZ, and shows in neighboring St. Petersburg, Tampa and even in Miami during Art Basel. Jaeger says that what started out as 12 artists grew to around 30 with members joining and leaving at various points. And as the economy and art community started stabilizing and members became more active in other arenas of their life, the group took a hiatus in 2011.
But now Jaeger and 15 other artists are set to relaunch SARTQ as a permanent fixture in the Sarasota arts community. The first salvo in this artistic commune is a show aptly titled “Here and Now” running from Aug. 14 to Aug. 29, at the State of the Arts Gallery’s Gallery C space. And though it presents works by 16 individual artists, members say the group gels artistically.
“With that many people with such strong sensibilities and individuality, it’s very possible that it could not work,” says Andrew Long, SARTQ member whose works mostly with ceramic art. “We seem to mesh very well and work together. The fact that we can all work together and orchestrate events like this together is pretty phenomenal.”
And the group has even more lofty goals besides the occasional rogue art show. After “Here and Now” closes the collective will begin a two-month residency at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts where each artist will receive studio space. The residency result in an exhibit, “Key Influence” (Sept. 26 through Oct. 31), which will show art-lovers each member’s process. After that the collective will focus on the color green in a show at the Englewood Art Center. The long-term goal is for the group to establish a brick-and-mortar location, which the artists will use not only as an exhibition and meeting place but as a center for arts education and community forums.
“In essence, we’re all learning from each other and seeing how communication works in a group of artists,” says Cassia Kite, member artist. “We’re providing for the things that we love as individuals, bringing them together and giving them to the community.”