There had been about 15 Artist Colony members. Some of them did work on the numbers-crunching side of their brains, and opted to become paying tenants of the Esplanade.
Jo-Ann Sanborn was the first. She never actually vacated the gallery space she shared with some of the other Artist Colony members.
“It was the right move at the right time,” Sanborn said. “I already had a presence there through the Artist Colony. It’s been rewarding to be so well accepted.”
Balking at the description of herself as a gallery owner, Sanborn uses the term “self-representing artist,” and described her retail space as a working studio, where she can often be found working on her latest canvas. That, she said, contributes to making the space more welcoming to the public.
“The doors are open. It looks inviting, so people are comfortable walking in. At some high-end galleries, people are intimidated,” she said.
Her impressionist canvases focus on the Everglades and the natural environment of Southwest Florida.
Around the corner from Sanborn, fellow Artist Colony members Betty Newman and Judy Chinski rented the former Wyland Gallery space along the waterfront next to Mango’s restaurant.
“We’re overwhelmed — it’s been fabulous,” Chinski said.“It’s gone very well. In the two months since we opened, we definitely surpassed our expectations,” Newman said. “When we left, Judy and I were miserable for months. We had no place to go.”
In addition to their own work, the two painters are also inviting guest artists to show and sell their work from the space. “There is a vibrant, viable art scene on this island,” Newman declared.
Other artists also have retail space on the island where they invite the public and show their work. Painter Malenda Trick has a studio/gallery upstairs at the Collection, rebranded from its former name of the Shops of Olde Marco.
“We had a great season,” Trick said. She credited the Veteran’s Painting Project, in which she painted and donated portraits of combat veterans that were shown all over Marco and Naples, for helping to raise her profile in the local art scene.
“We’re generally here from 10 to 3 except Sunday, and we’re just a three-minute walk away.”
Phyllis Pransky, a painter in a variety of media and styles, is another island artist with a working space outside her home, where she shows her work and conducts art classes.
Home, sweet studio
Oriental-brush painter Edythe Newbourne, on the other hand, just closed her East Meets West Studio. She and her husband, Malcolm, are building an addition onto their home, she said. After it is finished in September, she will offer showings by appointment, and will also teach her popular classes in Japanese painting technique there, in addition to the classes she gives at the Marco Island Center for the Arts and at BIG Arts on Sanibel.
“We’ve had that gallery and studio space for over 10 years. We’re both in our 80s, and we’re winding down a little,” she said.
Another new art gallery on Marco Island focuses on photography. Closed now for the season, the Elizabeth Evans Gallery offers fine art photography by a variety of well-known photographers, including massive prints by Clyde Butcher tagged at $80,000.
The gallery is off the beaten path on East Elkcam Circle, across the street from the Marco Eagle office. Owner Diana Gratz, whose business card identifies her as “gallerist,” opened the gallery in retail/office space she owns, fulfilling a dream in her lifelong devotion to the arts. She named the gallery after her mother.
Tara O’Neill, another of the Artist Colony members, has banded together with artists on Goodland to form a new group, the Goodland Arts Alliance. They held their first show in March at Margood Harbor Park, and are working to put Goodland on the art map.
Marco Island’ premiere venue for the visual arts is the Marco Island Center for the Arts on Winterberry Drive. Executive director Lynn Holley said the addition of new gallery spaces on the island is good for all artists and the arts.
“I’m very glad to see artists having space in retail areas,” she said. “It serves them very well to spread their wings and go out on their own. They’re professional artists, and they should be able to show in commercial spaces with foot traffic.
“We’re supportive of them, and they’re supportive of us.”
Most of the artists also give classes or display their works at the Art Center.
“There’s no doubt in my mind the art scene on the island is growing stronger,” Holley said.