It was like any other opening night at the Selby Gallery. Students, faculty members, local artists and art enthusiasts began converging inside the walls of the more than 30-year-old gallery just after 5 p.m.
The sun was going down as the conversations of art, memories and past shows began heating up. Though it was energetic, this wasn't an opening night. In fact, it was a closing. And not just any closing. It was the Selby Gallery's final night.
Scheduled for demolition in January, the Selby Gallery was the Ringling College of Art and Design's first and, for most of its history, largest gallery on its campus. The college announced earlier in the year that the gallery would be demolished after its final show, "Cuban Art from the Collection of Jorge Reynardus," closed on Dec. 9 to make room for the new Richard and Barbara Basch Visual Art Center, a 38,000 square feet, $10 million state-of-the-art facility.
The Selby Gallery has shown countless works of student, local and international art since it opened its doors in 1986. That leaves a lot of creativity and memories to explore on the gallery's last night.
Guests mingled back and forth admiring the Cuban art and remembering all of the shows of the past. Old school R&B and pop like Stevie Wonder and Hall & Oates bounced off the walls as drinks and food were generously served. A table held court in the middle of the gallery with extra posters and prints from past shows available for free. It was closing night, after all. Everything must go.
During the night's festivities, guests were able to share their favorite memories from the Selby Gallery and what they'll miss the most from the little gallery-that-could.
"I think what I'll miss the most about the Selby Gallery is just that feeling of walking into the gallery in the morning after installing an exhibition and just experiencing the art alone." - Tim Jaeger, Ringling College alumnus and gallery assistant.
"We've been enjoying this space for years. I loved coming to the student shows. You got to see fabulous art and then had the pleasure of talking to the students about their work. It was truly astounding, but I'm looking forward to the new center." - Jinny Johnson.
"My favorite memory was just standing behind the glass doors as a student monitor and just watch other students walk by and not walk in. Kevin Dean and I would just laugh and talk about what the students were missing." - Omar Chacon, artist and alumnus.
"This gallery is not only just a place where my husband worked but where my kids grew up. It's been a great experience." - Kay Kipling, writer and editor for Sarasota Magazine and widow to Kevin Dean, director of the Selby Gallery from 1996 until his death in 2014.
"This gallery has a fascinating history with the college. It was the only real connection to the community and the only gallery Ringling College had for a very long time. It was the place where everyone met. It was our gateway to the world of art." - Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design.
"This gallery was my entry into the college, and really the reason I became a trustee." - Carol Camiener.