ST. PETERSBURG — When Mindy Solomon opened her downtown gallery in 2009, the city’s arts scene was a flicker compared to what it’s become. Now, as she prepares for her move to Miami, Central Avenue teems with galleries from Beach Drive to as far westward as 29th Street.
Some say she’s played a pivotal role in that transition.
“She’s elevated the conversation on contemporary art in the city of St. Pete,” said Elizabeth Brincklow, the city’s International and Cultural Affairs Director. “Through her own efforts with the quality of artists and artist talks she’s had at the gallery, her focus on arts education and continuing to educate on contemporary art — its value and why it’s important and how we benefit culturally.”
Before opening her St. Petersburg gallery, Solomon was active at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and co-chaired the Tampa Bay Film Festival for years. She tried to encourage people to think about art differently and persuade the public that purchasing original works can be affordable.
When young artists and gallery owners started to spring up along the 600 block of Central Avenue, Solomon coached some of them on the business and marketing aspects of making a living selling art.
“She’s a very honest person, and she would give me honest feedback about my website and how I advertise,” said Jennifer Kosharek, who owns Eve-N-Odd Gallery in the Crislip Arcade. “I think it’s a gigantic loss for the city to lose Mindy Solomon Gallery.”
Those familiar with Solomon’s gallery, which is on Second Avenue Northeast, just off Beach Drive, recall the bold work she would bring in from national and international artists. Her 1,100 square-foot showroom, which closes next month, is a contemplative space with pristine white walls and immaculate wood floors.
“Her shows were often intentionally provocative when she first opened and have consistently been some of the most interesting shows in the area,” said JoEllen Schilke, longtime host of the WMNF Community Radio program “Art in Your Ear.”
She recalls Solomon’s fondness for Korean sculpture and her show featuring the well-known glass and ceramic work of the De La Torre Brothers from Mexico, an accomplishment Schilke called a “coup.”
Solomon’s new space in Miami’s trendy Wynwood Arts District gives her more exposure to international collectors, as well as proximity to major art festivals such as Art Basel.
St. Petersburg’s arts community would like to cultivate a stronger arts scene, so that some day the likes of Solomon could stay put. The key to doing that is educating the buying public about the importance of buying local art.
“I do have a very loyal group of collectors here,” Solomon said. “I have sold work in the tens of thousands of dollars. I can’t really say that there’s no buying, because there is. Could there be more? Absolutely.”
Losing Solomon could someday help strengthen the local art scene by providing additional buyers.
“While I’m really sorry to see her close, it will help with the pipeline to Miami with the St. Petersburg area,” Brincklow said.