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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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St. Pete’s 600 Block art enclave in flux

ST. PETERSBURG — At the heart of the vibrant artist enclaveknown as the 600 Block sits Crislip Arcade, an 89-year-old structure the city restored in 2010 with the aim of drawing in creatives with cheap rent.

Patrons who pass through its arched entryway walk down a long corridor with a slew of small boutiques and galleries on either side.

Since 2010, it’s been somewhat of a revolving door for local artists. Few have had a longer tenure than Jennifer Kosharek, who has run Eve-N-Odd Gallery for about three years.

But at the end of January, she’ll be closing her doors, citing lagging sales and the baby she has due in March. The gallery features her work, which is bold and largely inspired by Russian dolls, as well as that of other local artists such as Hugo Porcaro and Coralette Damme, also known as Crafty Hag.

Kosharek instead will sell her work mostly online and plans to participate in shows occasionally. She said it has been difficult to get enough foot traffic to justify paying rent at the arcade, but the baby is the biggest reason for packing up.

She has been trying to sell art in this spot that’s off the beaten path since 2011 and, after a surge in sales in the initial year, things have settled down at Crislip Arcade.

Aside from major events, often only a trickle of potential buyers make it down the corridor, which feels like a miniature open-air mall — with boutiques selling handmade jewelry and art pieces with still-wet paint instead of chain stores. Still, those who don’t know it’s there might pass it by.

While Kosharek thinks Crislip Arcade and the 600 Block as a whole need to be marketed better to tourists to succeed, she said she doesn’t entirely believe the strong creative presence there will leave.

“I don’t think anything bad is going to happen to this block,” she said. “Someone else will fill in the blank. The universe despises a vacuum.”

It’s not entirely uncommon for a gallery to be in flux. In the past year, several artists in St. Petersburg have moved into bigger spaces. Some, like Kosharek, have gone to online sales only and others have gone to other cities.

“They’re not closing up shop and going away,” St. Petersburg Arts Alliance President John Collins said. “They’re moving their business to a better place where people will collect their art or purchase their art.”

Over the years, including those prior to opening her gallery, Kosharek has held dozens of art shows. Her final installment will feature mail art, which also was the theme of the first show at Eve-N-Odd.

“We’re ending on what’s kind of like my first love,” she said. “It’s kind of an underground network of artists from all over the world who send mail to each other that’s little pieces of art.”

The show, called Bunnies to Bridges, opens with a 6 p.m. reception Jan. 11 and runs through Jan. 31.

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