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Friday, June 14, 2024

Gainesville Fine Arts Association celebrates its 100 year anniversary

The organization will honor its century of history in an exhibition opening Sept. 29

In the heart of Gainesville’s SoMa District lies a small gallery with a big history. Diverse artworks line the interior walls of the Gainesville Fine Arts Association, alluring guests to stop and admire the swooping pastels of an oil painting or the stark reds of a self-portrait. 

The Gainesville Fine Arts Association is a nonprofit that offers workshops, exhibitions and programming for artists of all skill levels. This year the organization celebrates its centenary. 

One of the events includes a free artwalk reception for their 100 Years of Art History Exhibition Friday, Sept. 29. 

Although the GFAA offers a variety of resources to the Gainesville community now, the association had humble beginnings. 

It was born from the friendship of art enthusiasts F.W. Buchholtz, Nelly Trezerant and C. Addison Pound in 1923. The trio would meet at one another’s houses to discuss artists and create scrapbooks of the art they like.

As the decades went on, the GFAA broadened its horizons through exhibitions, auctions, art shows, lectures and community events. By the 1970s, it achieved status as a non-profit.

In 2015, it opened a permanent location at 1314 South Main St. and has remained there ever since. 

One hundred years later, its three original memberships have multiplied to 300. 

Today the GFAA is known for events such as its annual “Gainesville Artist Studio Tour,” where working artists open their studios to allow the general public to purchase their work and foster greater insight into their creative processes.

Katy Lemle, 39, is the association’s first-ever executive director as well as one of the two employees of the GFAA. 

As executive director and someone with a love for gallery spaces, Lemle recognizes the importance of a space dedicated to sharing and appreciating art.

“The connection that people made with one another through this group is kind of what carried it forward,” Lemle said. “I think it’s been able to continue on because of these connections and that thread of people who love art.”

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Aside from the gallery and workshop space, the GFAA also collaborates with UF College of the Arts. The gallery space is reserved for one month every Fall for students’ required graduating exhibitions. 

“If people submit work, we guarantee that the artist gets at least one piece in,” said Lemle. “But, we do have awards that are given out and we always invite a different art professional in the community to come judge and assign those awards.” 

Many of the judges invited from the community are professors from the UF School of Art and the Harn Museum of Art, the university’s art museum.

Jeanine Tatlock, 30, is a Gainesville artist whose work is displayed in the association's current exhibition “CO-CREATION.” Her art explores a loose painting style using watercolor with elements of popular culture and pastel color hues. 

“I feel that GFAA is known as one of the few opportunities for artists in Gainesville to show work and participate in group shows,” Tatlock said. “It seems more accessible because they do offer scholarships and have regular opportunities to show work.”

Carly Shooster, a 28-year-old cartoonist, is the operations assistant and the only other employee of the GFAA. She originally moved to Gainesville to study microbiology, but she discovered her calling in Gainesville’s cartoon community. 

Shooster found this position after participating in a year-long program at the Sequential Artists Workshop, which is located in the same building as the GFAA. 

“There’s this funny mix of professional and personal in a way that I’m comfortable with,” Shooster said about her position. “I think a lot of folks feel scared to talk about their work, and I’m happy that I am at a place where that’s no longer an issue.”

One hundred years of history brings more than just celebration, however. Both Lemle and Shooster said it is important to contextualize GFAA’s 100th anniversary within the broader history of Gainesville.  

“At the same time as these three women are starting this group to appreciate art, we have Gainesville having a KKK rally and we have the Rosewood Massacre where a whole town was burned to the ground,” Lemle said.

The GFAA wrote in a statement that it is committed to platforming diverse voices and acknowledged its exclusionary past.

“We recognize that as a nonprofit arts organization in Florida that is approaching 100 years old, we have a past of exclusion and tremendous lack of diversity,” the GFAA wrote. “We are committed to shifting that so that we accurately reflect and represent the amazing people that make up our community.”

The GFAA offers multiple scholarships for marginalized artists, including the Twenty Pearls Scholarship for Black visual artists, as well as the LGBTQIA+ Scholarship for visual artists in the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s really important to both of us that the community sees how far we’ve come and also acknowledges and honors the lives of the folks that weren’t able to participate at GFAA efforts,” Shooster said. 

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at Follow her on Twitter @bonnymatejowsky

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.

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