A wide, rustic wooden plank across a shallow ditch may become the symbolic center of a new “art walk” in Flagler County.
That plank is no metaphor. It actually bridges Marvin’s Garden Mini Storage & Business Center, a strip mall at the border of Palm Coast and Bunnell that’s home to ZinkZank Art and the just-opened Calypso Fine Art Gallery, with Salvo Art Project, a gallery-studio complex where 14 artists work amid the flora and statuary of the adjacent Nature Scapes Landscape & Garden Center.
Artists at each venue – Salvo owners JJ Graham and Petra Iston, Calypso owners Weldon and Richlin Ryan and ZinkZank owner Sheila Skipp Zinkerman – use the term “art walk” to describe the dynamic they hope will develop since the Ryans left Salvo in March and opened their own gallery less than 100 yards away. Calypso had its grand opening on May 21 in suite K12 at Marvin’s Garden, which is on State Road 100 a turtle’s stroll west of Belle Terre Parkway.
Having two nearby galleries, including the immediately adjacent ZinkZank Art, “is a plus,” said Weldon Ryan, a realist painter whose forte is, these days, the colorfully costumed revelers of the carnival founded in his native Trinidad and Tobago. During his tenure as president of the Flagler County Art League, Ryan said, he met with Gargiulo Art Foundation co-founders Tom Gargiulo and Arlene Volpe, Graham and other artists “to try to do something for the arts.” One of his main goals, he said, “was getting an enclave of art in one location.”
That happened for a time at City Marketplace in Palm Coast, where Graham had his multi-artist Hollingsworth Gallery, local artist Jan Geyer opened a gallery and the Flagler County Art League had its home. Today only the art league remains. (Weldon Ryan was the 2011 Artist of the Year, Geyer won it in 2014.)
The Salvo-Marvin’s Garden enclave “is actually repeating what happened in City Marketplace but better,” Ryan said.
“We can have a little art walk here,” Graham said. “People can park here and walk over there. People can park there and walk over here. Weldon has his own direction, his own flavor, his own ideas, and I’ve always respected him for that. It’s fitting that he should be doing his own thing. And Shelia is over there now. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together. I hope people realize it’s an arts community.”
None of the artists see themselves as competing with each other. All believe they are their own, unique voice.
“We’re trying to create variety in this space,” said Richlin Ryan, a Guyana native who describes herself as a graphic experimental artist. The wife of Weldon, she creates multimedia tableaus of color-laden, geometric shapes. But sometimes she twists that aesthetic by superimposing that geometry over heart-wrenching images of young black boys crying or in despair, as in her Edvard Munch-inspired “A Scream.”
Artists driven not by competition but by cross-pollination
“We’re trying to create a certain atmosphere here at Calypso,” Richlin said. “When you go to Sheila’s gallery, it’s a different atmosphere. And JJ has his own atmosphere at his place. Hopefully more artists will see this is a viable space and as space opens up in this complex, maybe other artists will move in and create a really great art walk for this area.”
Zinkerman, a Palm Coast expressionistic artist, opened her ZinkZank Art gallery at Marvin’s Garden in August 2015, after a year as a tenant at Salvo Art. When the space next to her gallery became available, she put out word on Facebook encouraging artists to check it out.
“I could have opened up a studio in another area,” Zinkerman said. “I like the fact this area is a community of artists. That’s why I looked in the general vicinity of Salvo Art. I believe as a community you’re going to get more visitors to your studios. I was telling other artists who don’t necessarily want to be in a group studio that there are other spaces in Marvin’s Garden. I think it works out perfectly.
“We’re not in competition. It has to do with the symbiotic relationships between us. We exist better together. It’s like a community, an art walk or anything like that.”
That art walk dynamic and sense of community appeared to be in full play on Saturday May 21, when Calypso held its grand opening, and Salvo held its opening reception for multimedia conceptual artist Krystyna Spisak-Madejczyk and her exhibit “Transparency.” ZinkZank also was open that night.
Indeed, days before the opening of the Salvo show, Weldon Ryan took to Facebook and lauded Spisak-Madejczyk’s work and urged art patrons to attend her exhibition.
“Our mailing list is diverse from JJ’s and online,” Weldon Ryan said. “A lot of people came out to support us – mainstays but also our friends. It broadened the scope of possibilities. Everyone went from place to place to place. We didn’t deter anyone from going to Salvo or Shelia’s. We were ‘Hey listen. There’s some stuff happening over there. You should check that out.’ ”
“I love seeing people with the little wrist bands from Salvo,” Zinkerman said, noting the bands that indicate patrons have paid the $10 admission fee for Salvo’s opening receptions which, unlike those of its neighbor galleries, are more elaborate affairs that include wine, plentiful hors d’oeuvres and pastries, and live music.
“That’s what we’re trying to do – we’re trying to make a big loop between the three of us,” Zinkerman added. “If anyone else wants to come, and they can find a spot in Marvin’s Garden too, it would be fantastic – visual artists, dance studios. We’ve had photographers saying it would be nice to open here. There are a lot of things that can happen in the arts.”
Zinkerman said she left Salvo because she “needed a larger space because I love to work on the floor.” The Ryans cited several reasons that led to their leaving Salvo to open their own gallery. “Salvo was great,” Weldon Ryan said. “We enjoyed the camaraderie of all the other artists and being involved in a grassroots art movement happening there.” But, he noted, his sales were sluggish.
“It was partly our financial situation,” he said. “We were spending a good deal of money each month and not recouping anything from art sales. People liked the art I was doing but maybe I was too expensive, and maybe the audience as far the subject matter didn’t motivate sales. I don’t know.”
“We weren’t able to market ourselves efficiently enough in that space,” Richlin Ryan said. “We always had to keep in mind what the gallery was doing and not to overshadow the main gallery. The opportunity for us to do our own events, which would have brought in our audience, was never presented in that space. And the space wasn’t big enough for the work volume (and sizable canvases) Weldon has.”
He noted exhibits he and Richlin have curated at Bethune-Cookman University and the Yvonne Scarlett Golden Cultural & Educational Center, both in Daytona Beach. “We always brought in Flagler County artists for those events so people would know this is a viable arts scene,” he said.
Richlin recalled the vibrant arts scene in Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a neighborhood in Brooklyn. She and Weldon lived in New York City after their families each moved there from their Caribbean homelands during their childhoods. After meeting and marrying in the city, the Ryans and their three children moved to Palm Coast in 2004.
“Dumbo was amazing — the amount of people who came out for the October art opening,” Richlin said. “We had vendors, musicians, live paintings, deejays, sponsors. And that’s what we’re hoping for here. As more artists move in, maybe the corporate world will see it’s a viable thing to sponsor events here, outdoors. It may grow into something big in this area because there is room to expand here.”
Indeed, Salvo’s Graham said he has a waiting list of 12 artists “who would like to have studio space here.” The vacancy created by the Ryans’ departure has been filled by encaustic painter Sara Caldwell.
“There are always going to be these transitions,” Graham said. “I try to support these artists. Even though they moved out of here, they didn’t move away.”
“What we want is when you come to an art event, there’s a variety,” Richlin said. “Sort of like a mall. So if you’re here for one event, most likely you’re going to see everything there is. You make the trip here, you’re going to see as much as possible. Hopefully a group of artists will come in here and create a really good art scene.”