Long live visual arts in Sarasota.
Rising rent is forcing the Art Uptown Gallery to close after 43 years at 1367 Main St. Despite its name, Art Uptown is the second downtown gallery to close this year. At the same time, new visual arts destinations are expanding in more affordable parts of town.
Art Uptown, which houses local artists in studios upstairs, will close permanently at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26.
"The building has been sold and the gallery was unable to negotiate a lease price that would allow us to continue," said Melanie Carlstein, gallery board president, in a statement.
Carlstein said the gallery has stocked up on the works of its artists to give patrons the opportunity to buy in the final days of operation.
In June, Dabbert Gallery closed after 18 years in business at 46 S. Palm Ave. Husband-and-wife owners David and Patricia Dabbert have maintained a sales presence online, selling fine painting and sculpture.
The Dabberts were fixtures at the First Friday Gallery Walk downtown. In a Facebook post, the couple cited rising rent as well as new development downtown as the reason for their gallery's demise.
"The Sarasota art scene is changing," artist Virginia Hoffman wrote on Facebook. "High-end or high-rent galleries are fading away, and more artists are finding alternative means to present their art. This is a good thing. My only concern is the market might price artists out of the alternative locations."
While art galleries are getting pushed out of downtown, some are migrating to the nearby Limelight District, which runs along North Lime Avenue between 12th Street and Fruitville Road. The up-and-coming arts district is anchored by the popular shopping emporium, The Bazaar at Apricot and Lime, at 821 Apricot Ave.
Recent arrivals and expansions in the Limelight District include the March 30 opening of the Palmer Modern at 925 N. Lime Ave. and the addition in February of a second space by arts collective Creative Liberties at 927 N. Lime Ave. Its flagship is nearby, at 901B Apricot Ave.
Not far away from the recognized district, Marianne Chapel's SPAACES gallery at 2051 Princeton St. is seeking to raise $20,000 in a capital campaign it has dubbed the Major Arts District Expansion. MADE, for short, will expand the gallery's footprint from 4,500 to 7,000 square feet and will include street frontage exposure, which SPAACES currently lacks.
Founded in 2018, SPAACES became a not-for-profit in 2020. According to Chapel, the gallery's vision is to "see Sarasota recognized as a cutting edge, visual arts town, a place where contemporary art and artists thrive."
To raise awareness of the visual arts in Sarasota, a town where the performing arts need no help gaining attention, the Sarasota Studio Artists Association has organized Second Saturdays, where artists open their studios to the public and host other events.
Second Saturdays has been spearheaded by Jen Palmer, whose husband, Craig Palmer, owns Palmer Modern.
SAAC has published a map of local art galleries on its website, SRQArtists.com, to encourage buyers and browsers alike to come out for Second Saturday. That's a hard slog when temperatures are approaching 100 degrees, but foot traffic is expected to pick up during season.
One way to beat the heat is to hold evening events. In late July, Creative Liberties co-founders Barbara Gerdeman and Elizabeth Goodwill hosted a Magic & Mystery Night Faire.
The faire featured performances including stilt walking and illusions, foods including kebabs and candy apples, and sometimes spooky work by local artists. Instead of Christmas in July, the popular event hosted by Main Street retailers in Venice, think Halloween in July.
There's no question that fine arts galleries are facing pressure from higher rents and encroaching development. But the arts are thriving in Sarasota in unexpected places — church art galleries, pop-up events at Art Ovation Hotel and even the Saturday Farmers Market, where it's not unusual to see a plein air practitioner armed with paintbrush, palette and an easel.
Over at the Bayfront, Art Center Sarasota is making a push to get the word out that the artworks it displays are for sale. Admission is free to the center, a nonprofit that offers curated and juried exhibitions, workshops and classes.