By Kate Peterson
Founded in 1993, Artel started as a vehicle for fostering appreciation for art in its purest form. It is the only non-profit, all-volunteer experimental art gallery serving Northwest Florida. Their mission is to provide a continuous forum for quality experimental and contemporary art exhibitions and programs.
The main person in charge of the Artel Gallery is Lee Courtney, along with a board of directors. He has served as the Exhibition Director for 18 years. Being an artist his whole life brought him to Artel. When he was a boy, a particular book on figure drawing drew him in and he fell in love with drawing. These days he is a retired research biologist and volunteers countless hours to Artel.
Artel has a number of community outreach efforts to bring art into the lives of young people, challenged adults and the community at large.
Courtney’s newest venture for the gallery is to introduce and provide a platform for video and multi-medium works.
Artel turns 20 this year, and they are especially proud of the growth and development of the artists and the quality of the shows they provide.
Exposure for Artel in their current location has really exploded during Gallery Nights. During previous Gallery Nights, before they moved, they used to average about 200-300 visitors, now they are averaging 1200-2400. This is great news for Artel.
The theme for Artel’s current show is family. Courtney is in charge of coming up with ideas for about 6-7 juried shows a year. He likes to create themes because it means the artists are not submitting repeated works, they are being pushed to create something outside their comfort zone.
The subject of family can be interpreted anyway the artist chooses, and in any medium. Some works will represent family complete and others fractured.
We asked Courtney if he had heard any buzz from the regulars about submitting pieces for this show, “Not hearing anything yet. It is always a pleasant surprise,” he said.
Each artist submitting work can submit up to three pieces.
ENTER THE ARTISTS
“I’ve always said it is only one person’s opinion,” said artist Patricia O’Neal about the possibility of being chosen for this juried show.
O’Neal, a former raku potter in Atlanta creates work that is colorful and semi-abstract, is submitting three pieces for the Family show. One pays homage to Peter Max, one is of a friend and one she has been working on for a while—a piece featuring her son.
“I created a black and white painting of my son when he was young and it made him look like a criminal to me,” explained O’Neal. “I am taking a duplicate of that same piece of work and altering it to look like he is in jail. It may seem odd, but it represents family to me”
Though she has been an artist for many years, she admits that having pieces accepted into an Artel exhibit is not easy for anyone.
“It is challenging to know what they are looking for,” she said.
A phone call determines whether a piece of work has been accepted into the show. “I tell all my friends and family not to call me when I know the judging is happening,” O’Neal said. “It is not for the faint of heart. You are putting yourself out there and rejection is not personal, but feels like it.”
O’Neal has been in many shows at Artel in the past and always starts the process confident she will create something they like.
When not creating art herself, she is also involved in a 125-member club—Art Study Club. They have meetings each month and host a speaker who will discuss current art events or techniques. She encourages everyone to support the arts any way they can.
Like O’Neal, the Southeastern Art Players (SAP) will also be submitting work for Artel’s Family exhibit. The SAP, which meets weekly to create art, is an art collaboration between five Pensacola artists: Paula Perdue, Jean Harris, Pat Hayes, Margaret Warren and Bill White. Presently, they have three pieces in the current exhibit at Artel and frequently submit work as SAP and as individual artists. Bill White, of SAP, acknowledges that creating work for this exhibit will not be simple.
“This is a very unusual concept and is creatively challenging for all the members,” he said.
Although White is busy preparing for a one-man show, he says SAP will submit a three dimensional piece titled “Gene Pool Roulette” to Artel.
CALL TO ARTISTS: FAMILY A JURIED SHOW
WHEN: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, March 5 to Friday, April 12
WHERE: Artel Gallery, 223 Palafox Place