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New purpose for 'petite' space at Tower Gallery
September 3, 2019

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Prior to the start of season last year, the Tower Gallery on Sanibel renovated its upstairs bathroom, reopening it as "La Petite Galerie" - a separate innovative space to feature monthly themed artwork.

"Last year we decided to try to generate some newness to the gallery," JoAnne Bedient, a member of the artists' cooperative and board member for the group, said of the reimagined community exhibit.

A record-breaking number of turnovers among its member artists this year, however, inspired the gallery to find a new use for its La Petite Galerie. Bedient explained that the gallery is completely artist run. Potential members must submit an application and be reviewed by a committee for approval.

Upon their acceptance, members pay a monthly due to the gallery, works shifts at the venue and contribute a commission to the space on their sold pieces. But, it can be hard to keep it all up.

"Sometimes in an artist's life, things change," she said.

Bedient noted that health issues can arise, financial situations can alter and such.

Since the start of this year, the Tower Gallery has welcomed in five new artists because the space opened up as it said farewell to existing members who had those unexpected life changes arise.

"They didn't want to leave and we didn't want them to leave," she said.

So, the gallery came up with a new focus and purpose for the La Petite Galerie - to serve as an honoree exhibit space for those who had to hang up their membership because of the commitment.

"That was a space we could offer," Bedient said. "So they're still represented, their work."

A couple of minor renovations were made before it was reopened earlier this year, including the removal of the bathroom sink and counter, which remained when La Petite Galerie debuted.

"We just felt that these artists deserved a real space of their own, and it gave us a little more space to use," she said.

Currently, the honoree space showcases Ron Sebring, who was a member since 1997; Shelia Hone, who was since 2002; Steve Bufter, who was since 2009; and Christine Reichow, who was since 2012.

"We had a lot of requests for work by some of these artists after they left," Bedient said.

Sebring works in acrylics, pastels and mixed media, along with metal wood and clay sculpture.

"Ron is one of the most versatile artists I've ever know," she said. "Even his sketches and drawings are each little works of art."

Hone paints in expressionist and abstract styles with acrylics, using tertiary colors, combining liquid and heavy acrylics, and utilizing layering and texturing techniques.

"She has a very Impressionistic style, which leads into abstraction at times," Bedient said.

Bufter paints acrylic on wood, as well as builds wood sculptures and items.

"He paints a lot of people he knows or finds interesting," she said.

Reichow showcases the state's natural beauty through watercolors.

"Christine is an exceptional watercolor artist who's known for her birds, botanicals and beautiful Florida scenes," Bedient said.

Both originals and reproductions of their work can be found in the La Petite Galerie.

In the fall, the gallery plans to assess the exhibit to see how it is working out for the artists.

"There are other artists (former members) who want to do it," she said.

As for the upcoming season, the Tower Gallery has the following scheduled:

- Oct. 18-19: Attic Sale

- Dec. 12: "Under the Stars"

- Jan. 9: Matsumoto Retrospective

- Feb. 13: Poetic Reflections

- March 12: Katie Gardenia

- April 16: Auction for Captains for Clean Water

It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May to November and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. December to April.

For more information, call 239-472-4557 or visit www.towergallery.net.

The Tower Gallery is at 751 Tarpon Bay Road.

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