ST. PETERSBURG — Gallerie 909 is celebrating its first anniversary with a huge celebration tomorrow, April 17 from 5-11 p.m. at 909 22nd St. S. As one of the area’s newest and most innovative art galleries, owner Carla Bristol has added an interest and vitality to the Deuces by establishing an aesthetic art environment for the community to explore.
Her art gallery is a visual cornucopia for the mind and senses. It showcases the works of different artists from all over the world. This creative ambiance is enjoyed by both the visiting artist and guests.
During the past year, Gallerie 909 has held showings for more than 30 artists including the works of African artist William Kwamena-Poh, Cora Marshall, Charles Axt, Eugenia Connor Washington, Sharon Norwood and Herbert Scott Davis.
Bristol also encourages emerging artist in the Tampa Bay area by giving them a place to display their artwork. Local artist Brain Storm sold his first piece right in her gallery, and next month pop artist Owch will have his first exhibition.
Not just Midtown have noticed this jewel on the Deuces, Tampa Bay Business Journal Reader’s Choice Awards has named Gallerie 909 as one of Tampa Bay’s top three galleries, placing it right behind the The Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection. Also, this Sunday the Gathering of Women, Inc. will honor Bristol with The Men & Women of Distinction Award.
However, it is the art that excites her. Bristol is ecstatic that her gallery is exposing the community to art, especially the children. She feels the arts can give the youth a sense of pride.
“It can offer them a sense of identity and a bridge to discover and explore their historical past,” she said.
On the boards of Studio@620 and the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum, Bristol has imprinted her own branding and concept into her gallery. The small space is chock full of vibrant paintings, handcrafted sculpture, unique jewelry, intricate quilts and other intrinsic objects.
Bristol’s first year came with challenges also. She said that she was surprised at how some men, even in today’s modern world, treat women with an air of disrespect in regards to business. Also learning to interact with the diverse temperaments of different artists was no easy task.
The support she has received, however, makes the challenges of being an upstart gallery owner and a woman in a male-dominated field seems miniscule.
“It’s overwhelming the support I’ve received from the community,” she stated. “I feel like the daughter of St. Pete,” the Guyana native said with a smile. “There is a sense of pride about me and the gallery.”
Most of her sales come from art enthusiasts and the last three months have surpassed all of the sales since her 2014 opening.
Gallerie 909 has become a mecca to the black art community. It hosts spoken word on Sundays, photo shoots and book signings. Coming soon will be demos and workshops ranging from the art of photography to collages, and also an art series exhibiting the different uses of mixed media, sculpting and art in social media entitled “History of African American Art from Africa to America.”
The art gallery is one unit of stores, owned by Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy, on the corner of Ninth Avenue and 22nd Street South, at the edge of the arts district. The businesses have all been challenged and there has been some store closings, but new stores are soon opening. And with the opening of the new Midtown campus of St. Petersburg College, Bristol is positive the area will be teeming with activity soon.
She offers these words of advice for people thinking about starting their own business: “Find something you’re passionate about, do your market research to make sure it’s viable, keep overhead low, don’t’ expand to fast and be respectful of your customer. They are valuable.”
This Fri., April 17 from 5 – 11 p.m., Gallerie 909 will have is official first year celebration. There will be live music by Venus Bleu and DJ Cutty, spoken word, raffles, games, wine tasting and food.