Creating a space for art in Orlando
Seven years ago I was recruited by a fledgling arts organization that had a nugget of a intent of a mission to simply bring visual arts to children that had no access to it.
I was still working my way through night school at Rollins College and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my degree. I was making headlines for putting chairs at bus stops around Orlando and it caught the attention of a local philanthropist, Bickley Wilson, who was attracted to the idea of art having impact beyond finger painting.
Scoot forward five years and Bickley was still paying for the programming out-of-pocket and looking for some ways to diversify the organization’s portfolio and income streams; because it had none.
I had just written an article about the longest running art collective in the region having lost their warehouse and how they were looking for a new home so I pitched the idea of simply purchasing a warehouse for the group and having them rent it from ArtReach Orlando (the aforementioned non-profit); having Bickley buy it, gift the building to ArtReach in perpetuity, and having the organization operate from the rental dollars. She loved the idea and sent me on a mission to find the perfect space.
Which we did. The rest is history.
We hired an architect to gut and renovate a former auto shop into artist studios, and now 23 of some of the very best artists in Central Florida call it home.
The space was featured in a fantastic interview by Orlando Magazine, which you can read HERE.
While I’m no longer with ArtReach, this is arguably the project I’m most proud of in my career. The artists host regular workshops and studio openhouse events, local groups rent the space for fantastic shindigs, and there’s a workshop space that ArtReach uses to host summer camps for local school children - complete with a scholarship program funded by the City of Orlando.
I even got them a giant stuffed whale donated by Anthropologie which looks majestic hanging over the reading nook off of the main classroom.