As customers walk into the Thornebrook Gallery, they are surrounded with sounds of windchimes and laughter. The owner, David Arrighi, jokes with clients with familiarity and comfort.
He knows which painting would look good in their homes, which earrings their daughter would like and just the right frame to accentuate their favorite piece. His passion is contagious, and it quickly spreads throughout the gallery.
Arrighi opened the Thornebrook Gallery in 1981, three weeks after he graduated from UF with a degree in printmaking. He considers himself lucky because he’s been able to do what he loves every day for the past 40 years.
To him, art is what makes us human.
“Everything else we do, we do because we have to,” he said. “Art we do because we can.”
After 41 years of business in Gainesville, the gallery, located at 2441 NW 43rd St., is set to close on Feb. 18. After the closure of the physical store, the gallery will continue to sell work online.
Arrighi bought the unit before it was fully constructed, which allowed him to have it built to complement the artwork inside. When he opened up the shop, he asked a school friend, Margaret Ross Tolbert, if he could buy some of her artwork to put on the walls. He still sells her work today, 41 years later.
When Arrighi opened the shop, he didn’t think it would make it five years, as other galleries had closed in Gainesville after a short time open. However, Arrighi’s passion for the work and relationships with artists and customers set his gallery apart.
Paintings, jewelry, sculptures and picture framing are some of the forms of art sold in the gallery. Whenever Arrighi goes over to a customer’s house and sees work that came from the gallery, he sees that it’s had an impact on elevating that person’s life.
Having beautiful things around you makes you feel better, he said.
He has impacted more than just the lives of his customers. Part of what makes Arrighi unique is his partnership with artists.
Unlike a typical gallery, which takes 50% of artists’ profits, Arrighi only takes 40%.
Trish Beckham, a lifelong artist, met Arrighi 20 years ago. When she showed him her watercolor paintings for the first time, he said “Where have you been all my life?”
He’s carried her work ever since.
“All the artists who have been with him that live locally have received that same kind of support,” Beckham said. “It's been great.”
That support has not only helped Beckham grow financially but as an artist. After showing him paintings, he would tell her what he liked about it, and it would help her improve and keep painting. His positivity and excitement propelled her to paint even more, she said.
“He supported me beyond what he was doing for his gallery,” she said. “He supported my whole career.”
She also sees the impact that his gallery has had on Gainesville art community. During the 2008 recession, her work was selling out at a time where many artists struggled. Gainesville was the hot spot for art in Florida, and Arrighi was the leader of that, she said.
“Every artist would have loved to have been represented by him,” Beckham said.
Another artist, Laura Adams Wilson, has also worked with Arrighi for the past seven years.
While she recognizes that this is a business for Arrighi, she can see that he truly is an art lover and that he takes pride in the artists he represents.
To her, Arrighi has never sold out. He doesn’t follow the trends of the times. He has stayed true to what he knows and likes, which has helped him create a loyal base of customers and artists in Gainesville.
“Gainesville has always been an artist enclave in some way or another,” Adams Wilson said. “It’s this old hippie town at its heart, and for the locals that usually generates good art and music, good food.”
The artistic environment thrives when artists and collectors can come together in person to see, sell and buy great work.
When Arrighi showed art, he talked about the artist's process and inspiration. When someone buys art online, they don’t get that experience with the gallery owner and the artist, she said.
Although she’s sad to see the gallery close, Adams Wilson thinks Arrighi has earned his rest. After working six days a week for over 40 years, Arrighi is looking forward to retiring and spending time with his wife, who retired a year and a half ago and has been waiting for him since.
Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenWhid.
Lauren Whiddon is a UF journalism senior and the multimedia editor. When she's not writing she is updating her Letterboxd account or reading classic literature.