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Define Gallery gives Art Uptown artists a lifeline

Deena and Casey King's new space is near the recently shuttered Art Uptown Gallery.

Casey and Deena King pose outside their Define Art Gallery, which is moving to 68 S. Palm Ave.
Casey and Deena King pose outside their Define Art Gallery, which is moving to 68 S. Palm Ave.
Photo by Monica Gagnier
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For a small business, social media can be a blessing. But it can also be a curse.

Just ask Deena and Casey King, the husband-and-wife proprietors of Define Art Gallery and Studio.

The Kings' gallery is currently located at 2170 Main St,, but they're moving to 68 S. Palm Ave. and taking some of the artists displaced by the recent closing of Art Uptown Gallery with them.

An announcement listing 14 former Art Uptown exhibitors appeared on Facebook on Sept. 12. Since then, the Kings have been deluged with phone calls, texts and emails from arts aficionados. They've also heard from Art Uptown veterans whose work will now be on display at Define, which opens Oct. 3 in time for First Friday Art Walk.

But there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? Still, the Kings are worried that the Facebook post gave some readers the impression that all of Art Uptown's former artists or even the gallery itself were moving to the new Define space.

Being good former Midwesterners — they moved here from Kansas City, KS, in 2020 — they don't want to hurt anybody's feelings or create confusion.

For the record, the new Define space will include the works of 22 artists in total, including Deena King, who has exhibited at Creative Liberties in the Limelight District as well as 14 artists formerly associated with Art Uptown. 

Those artists are Ian Begg, Melanie Carlstein, Liz Cole, Gillian St. George, Donna Grossman, Joan Libby Hawk, Christine Hales, Esther Jensen, Deborah Kadagian, Evelyn McCorristan Peters, Janet Mishner, Cheryl Moody, Kathryn Adele Schumacher and Mariane Wurzbach.

Most of all, the Kings don't want to appear ungrateful for the advance publicity about Define's move and expansion. "We don't know who put up the post, but we're grateful that they're getting the word out," said Casey King, a global IT executive with Molex Inc. in Chicago who works remotely in Sarasota.

According to Deena King, the matchmaker between the former Art Uptown artists and Define was Barbara Gerdeman, co-founder of Creative Liberties.

The Kings moved to Sarasota right before Covid swept the country. Deena King started working on her fine art during the pandemic in the couple's garage before finding studio space with Zero Empty Spaces, which seeks to provide artists with affordable studio space nationwide, and then with Creative Liberties.

The Kings opened their first Define gallery 18 months ago.

By moving to its new location, Define will more than double its space, from 486 square feet to 1,000 square feet.

Casey King said he and Deena moved to Sarasota from Kansas to escape the cold. "We really like the sunshine here. That's why we came. We didn't realize how much art energy is here until we got here."

Define is offering artists a number of options to exhibit their work, none of which requires an exclusive agreement. Artists can pay an annual membership fee or join the gallery on a month-to-month basis. 

An entry-level option calls for artists to pay Define a $250 monthly membership fee and to work part-time in the gallery.

The Kings view their Oct. 3 debut as a "soft opening" that will be the prelude to a Nov. 17 "re-grand opening."

Even though rising rents contributed to the August closing of Art Uptown at 1367 Main St. after 43 years in business and the June exit of Dabbert Gallery after 18 years at 46 S. Palm Ave., Casey King thinks there's room for new players in the downtown arts scene.

"There is still a hunger for art. People want to buy art and look at art," he says, noting that while the electricians have been working on Define's new gallery, people have been stopping to ask when it's going to open.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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