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‘The Fence’ exhibit showcases local and national photography

North America’s largest photo exhibit comes to Benderson Park, where it features work from several locals.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 6, 2019
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An exquisite series of glistening glacial images called “Nightless Summer in Southeast Iceland” graces the fence at Regatta Island. It is the work of Sarasota photographer Cliff Roles, who is among eight local artists featured in “The Fence” exhibit at Nathan Benderson Park.

This free traveling showcase — the largest public photo exhibition in North America — has returned to the area for the second year, lasting from Nov. 8 to Feb. 8.

Sarasota photographer Cliff Roles' photos from Scandanavia are part of
Sarasota photographer Cliff Roles' photos from Scandanavia are part of "The Fence" exhibit at Nathan Benderson Park through Feb. 8.

“I’m excited, I’m thrilled, and I’m flattered,” says Roles, who snapped his shots while traveling in Scandinavia. “I’d just come back from Iceland and figured I’d throw these photos into the competition and chance my luck, and lo and behold, they were chosen.”

Roles is among 40 artists who were chosen from thousands of worldwide submissions to be featured in “The Fence.” Other locals include Michael Simeone’s “Nature Triumphs” series, Peter Monsees’ “Nature’s Colorful Palette,” Paula May Scott’s “An Old Home Recalls,” Ann McGough’s “Home, Sweet Mobile Home,” Joyce P. Lopez’s “Black Flower Series,” Tonya Barnes’ “Save the Sirens Project” and Carole Devillers’ “Birds of Florida in Breeding Glory.”

“More than 6,000 people came to the park just to see ‘The Fence’ last year, though thousands from other events at the park [be they local, national or international] also had a great opportunity to see it,” says Douglas Jessmer, the media and communications manager for Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, a not-for-profit business that manages the park. “We held the event over for another month last year because of popular demand.”

The exhibit draws more than 8 million visitors each year through open-air shows in various host cities, and it is deliberately positioned in areas with massive pedestrian traffic.

“We are again the smallest market to have ‘The Fence,’” Jessmer says. “The selection of Sarasota photographers for ‘The Fence’ elevates our image in the art world just that much more.”

Participating work spans the categories of creatures, homes, people, streets, nature, food and play. Each photo series, printed on vinyl mesh, comprises as many as five images that share a thematic connection or tell a story.

Sarasota photographer Cliff Roles' photos from Scandanavia are part of
Sarasota photographer Cliff Roles' photos from Scandanavia are part of "The Fence" exhibit at Nathan Benderson Park through Feb. 8.

Photographers were invited to submit work for consideration by a jury of photo and art professionals, including photo editors from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The San Francisco Chronicle, and People and Time magazines, as well as curators from galleries, museums and colleges across the continent (including Tampa’s Florida Museum of Photographic Arts).

The goal of the exhibit is to bring compelling narratives to as many people around the country as possible. Conceived and produced by United Photo Industries, “The Fence” was presented for the first time in 2012 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Sarasota was tapped as an ideal location for the show, not only for its excellent weather but also for its tourist-destination status and engaged audience of art enthusiasts. And that is what United Photo Industries wants. The 2011-founded, New York-based nonprofit has presented hundreds of exhibitions and public art installations across the United States and worldwide.

“Sarasota has a tremendous, eclectic arts scene, so this is another feather in our cap as a region,” Jessmer says. “This year, we’re honored that [local arts enthusiast]

Laura Feder sponsors a regional showcase to complement the larger national exhibit because it highlights the great work of photographers across the Gulf Coast.”

For Roles, the exposure is a privilege.

“I remember seeing and enjoying last year’s exhibit with my grandchildren and my wife,” Roles says. “And I’m humbled to be a part of it this year.”


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