Pensacola, Florida
Thursday June 21st 2018


Local Artists Take Over

By Jessica Forbes

While summer is the off-season for many of the performing arts, two local visual arts institutions are opening their doors (and wall space) to the works of Pensacola’s resident artists. The Pensacola Museum of Art’s (PMA) 60th Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition opens the same week as Artel Gallery’s “Push It to the Edge,” meaning for the month of June, two of the largest gallery spaces in town will be dedicated to showcasing local talent concurrently, each having had no shortage of pieces to choose from.

The Members’ Chance to Shine

PMA’s 60th Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition will run from June 6 through July 26.  Alexis Leader, PMA’s Director of Curatorial Affairs, reports that this year, over 69 artists submitted 172 pieces to be considered for the show.

“The quality, range and originality of the submissions this year were incredible. We are truly fortunate to live in a community with such an appreciation for the visual arts and talent,” Leader said of the response from artists.

As a juried show featuring the works of museum members, the PMA Members’ Exhibition has no set theme, but encourages artists to submit a range of mediums and pieces that fit within entry rules.

“I’ve met members who regularly submit that have only been accepted once and others whose submissions are juried in nearly each time,” Leader said. “Their support for the PMA and their enthusiasm to throw their hat into the ring never wavers. It’s a testament to the spirit of our local artists.”

As the PMA’s curator, Leader is responsible for selecting a juror for the show, the individual who is responsible for selecting pieces and awarding prizes. “This year, I selected Mike Roberts. Mike is best known for his PNJ column ‘Eye on Art’ and is an avid art history buff and appreciator of local talent. To take someone who attends every Members’ Juried Exhibition as an art critic and place him behind the scenes as juror was something that appealed to me,” Leader explained.

For the 60th year, new awards have been introduced to the Members’ Juried Exhibition, namely a People’s Choice award for which attendees of the opening reception will be able to vote. The opening reception will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, June 6 and is free and open to the public, with voting taking place in the first hour of the event. Also for the first time in the exhibition’s long history, the winner will be given a solo show in the PMA’s Charles W. Lamar, Sr. Gallery at a later date.

“Mike’s selections ensure that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Certain artists have showcased their work in previous Members’ exhibitions while others are showing their work for the first time. As a Pensacola native, I can’t help but feel a tug of local pride in my heart when organizing this exhibition,” Leader stated.

Pushing the Boundaries Even Further

Within Pensacola’s arts community, Artel Gallery is known as a haven for experimental, non-traditional art. This summer, the gallery is challenging local artists to go even further beyond the usual in the exhibit, “Push It to the Edge,” which is open June 3 through July 11.

“We strive to show contemporary, experimental works that you don’t typically see in surrounding galleries,” Suzanne Robbert, president of Artel Gallery, said.  “Our motto is ‘Art with an Edge.’ In every show, we want people to push it to the edge, but I think this is a way of keeping the theme open and reminding artists to take that extra step.”

Located on the first floor of the old Escambia County Courthouse, Artel’s main gallery hosts 8 to 10 themed, juried shows each year each comprising submissions exclusively from the community.

Each of Artel’s shows is themed and each utilizes a different juror-curator, assuring a different perspective on selection. Robbert stated that Artel typically gets between 100 and 150 submissions for each show, which a juror then pares down to between 30 and 45 pieces, depending on their size.

“Even we are never quite sure what each show is going to look like,” Robbert said of Artel’s all-volunteer board. “It keeps it interesting and keeps it different.”

For Artel’s exhibitions, all local artists are welcome to drop off submissions for a show, regardless of whether they are members. Robbert estimates between 75 and 85 percent of submissions are from members, with many new artists finding them by word of mouth. “They’re also looking for a venue to show their works that are usually deemed strange or too oddball for other galleries. So we’re unique in that we want that stuff,” Robbert said with a laugh.

The show is open to all mediums and has no size restrictions other than needing to fit through the front door (based on past experience, the gallery does discourage the inclusion of living organisms or food items in pieces).

“We encourage artists to experiment with non-traditional media and use traditional media in non-traditional ways. Digital, video, or film is also encouraged,” Robbert explained. “[Exhibition Director] Lee [Courtney] comes up with the themes and he also asks for the board’s suggestions. He tries to come up with something that we’ve never done before—we don’t like to repeat.”

Courtney also chooses the jurors for shows, looking to arts faculty and professional artists in the community, preferably those who have never juried before or who have not juried in the last five years.
Joseph Smith, an artist currently living in Lillian, Alabama, will serve as the juror for “Push It to the Edge.” Smith’s works—sculptures, paintings, and drawings—have been shown in the U.S., France, Switzerland and Germany.

The opening reception for “Push It to the Edge” is June 13 at 6 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Friday, June 6-Saturday, July 26 (Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.)
WHERE: Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $12 for adults, $10 for members, and $8 for children ages 11 & younger (includes entry to “The Art of the Brick: Nathan Sawaya LEGO® Brick Artist” exhibit)
DETAILS: 432-6247 or

WHEN: Tuesday, June 3-Friday, July 11 (Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
WHERE: Artel Gallery, 223 S. Palafox
COST: Free admission
DETAILS: 432-3080 or