Do you know SoBo?

Do you know SoBo?
Do you know SoBo?
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AC-SoBo Tulips

WINTER GARDEN — Ever since its opening in the fall of 2013, the SoBo has been a hub of artistic activity, with monthly gallery receptions and exhibits and a full schedule of workshops and classes, art marathons and open studio time.

The Winter Garden Art Association is celebrating the success of the young gallery with an inaugural-year gala, called “Splash 2015,” from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20. Patrons can stroll through the gallery, studio and outdoor party area enjoying food, spirits and entertainment. The evening also will include various artful experiences, a raffle of artwork created during the social event and silent and live auctions. Member artists Kim Minichiello, Mike Malloy, Prayong Deeing, Rudy Drapiza and Jamie Wiggins will be participating in special art activities.

Festive attire is being encouraged, and guests are further challenged to dress creatively in black and white with a “splash of red.” Tickets are $60 for WGAA members, $75 for others. Proceeds will go to benefit the art association. Reservations are required and can be made online at or by visiting the gallery or calling (407) 347-7996.

Organizers are currently seeking art- and non-art-related items for the auctions. For more information, email [email protected]. The deadline to submit a donation is Feb. 1.


Mary Keating, co-chair of the WGAA’s Board of Directors, said she considers the organization to be quite successful in just its first year.

“Of course, we’re always challenged, but we’ve done more than we thought we would do in the first year,” she said. “People seem to be very excited about it. I think people are happy we have something like this in town.”

In the first 15 months, SoBo exhibited more than 1,000 pieces of local art, which represents 134 different artists. An average of 40 participate each month by submitting up to two artworks for the selection process.

Keating attributes the gallery and studio’s popularity to it being something new and different in the area.

“Winter Garden hasn’t had a gallery like this,” Keating said. “What some artists tell me is places like this aren’t available in Central Florida where they can submit their work a few pieces at a time, and it’s relatively inexpensive. This is putting it at a level that very fine artists can participate, and people who don’t have a huge body of work. A lot of times, galleries are limited to people who are very established.”

The front part of the building is the gallery space, where local artists can find their work professionally hung or displayed. The large studio room in the back is a relaxed place reserved for creatively painting, drawing, sketching, sculpting, molding, whittling and gluing.

Elizabeth McKinney is the board of directors chair, and she is impressed with SoBo’s first year.

“The old movie quote about, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ is so appropriate,” she said. “When we opened a year ago, we started with about 15 artists; today, we are affiliated with around 300.

“There is not a week that passes without a new artist or fledgling artist coming in,” she said. “Artists and visitors alike are so amazed that Winter Garden has the gallery. The artists are thrilled to have an outlet for their work, and visitors repeatedly state that SoBo is the piece that Winter Garden was missing. The longtime residents are amazed that a place of this quality is right here in their Winter Garden.”

Although 127 SoBo exudes a fresh, spirited atmosphere, the cozy venue was actually built in 1936 as Winter Garden’s fire station and served the city until 1984. It has also been a dance studio, it held the city’s storage, and it was a satellite recreation center.

The WGAA is an all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the visual arts in Winter Garden.


An art marathon is currently underway in the studio, and the theme is “Spontaneous Artwork.” Artists are invited through Jan. 24 to take their supplies to work on their creations that could be exhibited through February. One or two pieces of artwork will be accepted per participant, and all will be for sale. They can also join other artists in a collaborative painting project on a large canvas.

“Whet Your Palette” takes place starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30. Friends are invited to paint together with guidance from an art instructor who teaches the process step by step. No experience is needed, and all art supplies are provided. Participants can take snacks and drinks. The cost is $30 for WGAA members, $35 for others. Register at or [email protected]. This program is being expanded this year “using artists that you don’t typically see in the other win-and-paint classes,” McKinney said.

The first exhibit of 2015 is the current “Escapes,” which shows the world through a photographer’s eye. The featured artist is Paul Gerding, a graduate of Florida State University who began his career as a professional photographer documenting the building of Disney World a year before it opened. He and his wife, Kaye, have traveled extensively, and his photographs in the “Escapes’ exhibit are from several of their destinations. This exhibit runs through Jan. 31.

Minichiello will teach a two-day watercolor workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 7 and 8, when beginning and intermediate artists can learn about the tools and techniques. Minichiello is a former Walt Disney Imagineer and has designed shops, restaurants and attractions for Disney’s theme parks. She has also created art for products sold at Target and Stein Mart. To sign up for the workshop, email the artist at [email protected].

Five weeks of full-day camp for elementary students is coming this summer. “Art @ Large,” June 8 to 12, offers students a chance to create a movie backdrop or mural, movie set and photo shoot background. “Explore the World of Dr. Seuss,” June 15 to 19, lets kids design an original Seuss-style character, create artwork inspired by his books and expand creative writing and rhyming skills using crazy illustrations. “Create-Recycle-Reuse,” June 22 to 26, gives opportunities for creating two- and three-dimensional artwork. “Creative Space Making,” July 6 to  10, allows participants to learn art techniques to develop an imaginative space inside or out using sticks, stones and other natural elements. “Creature Feature,” July 13 to 17, lets students create a character with sketches and bring a 3-D version of the monster to life by making a mask.


To thrive, the organization depends on community support through memberships, donations and volunteering.

Members of the Winter Garden Art Association receive many benefits, including free artist open studio time, workshop discounts and a newsletter. Levels range from Student ($20), Individual ($35) and Family ($50) to Art Lover ($250), Collector ($500) and Master ($2,500).

Donations are always welcome. The association has a long wish list of needs to help revitalize the historic building, extend community programming and build a sustainable future for the arts in Winter Garden.

Citizens who want to volunteer can participate in community projects, serve on a committee, become a gallery host, help coordinate and host special events or share their special skills.

Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].


• Galleries and shows — “Escapes,” with photos from around the globe, on display until Jan. 31. “A Splash of Color 2015” opening reception is 5:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 5, and the works are on display until Feb. 28. “Going Deeper” features works with a hidden meaning, with special artist Chad Pollpeter; the opening reception is 5:30 to 8 p.m. March 5, and the art is on display through March 30. “Birds & Bees, Flowers & Trees” focuses on the details of nature in artwork, and the opening reception is 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 2, with the exhibit remaining up through April 30.

• Social events — Art marathon, through Jan. 24. Whet Your Palette, Jan. 30, March 27 and April 24, featuring a fun night of painting with friends.

• Workshops — Found-Object Assemblage with Jan Partain, Jan. 31. Bold & Dynamic Watercolor with Kim Minniciello, Feb. 7 to 8. Jewelry with Elizabeth McKinney, Feb. 10, March 24 and April 14. Sculpting With Clay with Katherine Mathisen, March 7 to 8. Tiffany-Style Stained-Glass with Mary Keating, March 12 to 13. 


ADDRESS: 127 S. Boyd St., Winter Garden

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday

PHONE: (407) 347-7996



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