- March 31, 2021
When the Winter Garden Art Association launched the SoBo Gallery and Art Center, members of the association didn’t know what to expect from the local artist community. When the gallery first opened, it barely received enough art submissions to fill up the walls for the its first show.
“When we first started, we were so nervous about what art we got,” said Mary Keating, coordinator of exhibitions at the SoBo Gallery, a founding member of the Winter Garden Art Association and the vice chair of the Art Association Board of Directors. “There were 30 to 50 entries (for the first show) … and we can put about 60 to 70 pieces in (the gallery).”
Five years later, the gallery has the opposite problem.
“Now we’re getting, consistently, 175 to 230 submittals every month,” Keating said. “We are more selective, however, it isn’t always your typical, beautiful fine art that always gets in. It depends on the theme (for the month). … It breaks my heart to actually turn down (submissions), because I don’t want to be discouraging, but we turn down really fine pieces all the time.”
The gallery is celebrating its five-year anniversary from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, with the opening of its latest exhibition, “Artists on Fire — Rekindled,” at the gallery, 127 S. Boyd St. The exhibition will be on display through Dec. 29.
The gallery’s first show was called “Artists on Fire,” and was held Nov. 7, 2013. The theme of that first show paid homage to the history of the building the SoBo Gallery calls home — it used to be a fire station for the city of Winter Garden. This year’s anniversary theme, “Artists on Fire — Rekindled,” was chosen in honor of the first show, Keating said.
“It being a firehouse, we said, ‘Oh, we’ll just call it Artists on Fire, because we’re all excited,’” Keating said of the first show.
After deciding on the anniversary theme, the Art Association Board chose the symbolize the anniversary theme in the form of a phoenix. They asked painter Susan Grogan — who works with watercolors and alcohol ink — to paint a phoenix. Grogan’s painting, called “Phoenix Rising,” has been used to help promote the anniversary and is the featured art piece of the event. She also painted an up-close portrait of a phoenix, called “On Fire,” which also will be featured at the exhibition.
“The relevance of the phoenix is that, every so often, the phoenix will … decide to (change),” Keating said. “So he puts himself out in the sun and lights himself on fire, and he comes out alive and in a new manner. (This symbol) is very fitting for us, because we’ve been at this baby stage for five years, which we’ve been organically growing and we hope to continue to organically grow, but we’re at this stage that we have to get to the next level.”
Grogan has been exhibiting her work with the SoBo Gallery for about three years. She said her phoenix paintings are painted with alcohol ink, which is similar to watercolors but instead of water, rubbing alcohol is used to thin and moisten the paint.
“It’s a little more abstract than a painting in watercolor,” Grogan said. “It will adhere to slick surfaces, so I painted (the phoenixes) on a paper called yupo … (which) is a plastic paper. The ink sits on the top of it so it’s very vibrant. It doesn’t soak into the fibers and it dries very quickly.”
Grogan added that most painters who work with alcohol ink paint abstract pieces, but she uses it to paint non-abstract images.
“A lot of people have painted in abstracts with that, and let it blend together and I thought, ‘Well, why can’t I paint an image with it?’” Grogan said. “When Mary (Keating) asked me to paint a phoenix for the show … I thought it would lend itself very nicely to the alcohol ink.”
A PLACE FOR ART
The Artists on Fire — Rekindled exhibition will feature 2D- and 3D-artwork. The only requirement for artists’ submissions is each piece must include “a touch of red,” Keating said.
“It will be a variety of subject matters and mediums,” Keating said. “All our symbols of fire (in the exhibit) is all about the passion of the art and the creativity of the soul.”
Keating added the anniversary exhibition also will double as the SoBo Gallery’s monthly exhibition opening event, which typically falls on the first Thursday of the month. Because of the gallery’s five-year anniversary’s falling on the second week of the monthly — and because the first Thursday in November follows Halloween — the Art Association Board chose to have the anniversary exhibition event also serve as the monthly opening event.
Since its inception, SoBo has become much more than a place to display or view art. With regular art classes, events and outreach programs, SoBo also has become a gathering hub for artists, art lovers and other members of the community.