ArtHouse3: Creative's Dream Becomes Visual Reality, Tampa

The beginning of Lake Wales native Katherine Gibson's relationship with art developed the way many hobbies do -- out of curiosity.

Gibson -- a University of South Florida school psychology graduate student at the time -- read an article in the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) in advance of Bealsville-based folk artist Ruby Williams' show at the 'Grand Opening Reception' of The American Museum of Serious, Naive and Children's Art, a gallery space that briefly inhabited the Plant City Train Depot in 1994.

She decided to unwind from the GRE and reward herself with a leisurely drive to Plant City for Williams' showcase. It was there she met Tampa Bay photography hero Bud Lee who co-founded the museum with his wife, Peggy, and curated the show.

"When I walked into that place, something happened to me like I'd never experienced before," Gibson says.

She describes it as an "attack of the senses -- in the best possible way."

Williams' work adorned every surface of the building in an explosion of colors and characters. A series of cables in the center supported her used paintbrushes like a makeshift chandelier.

It had such an impact on Gibson that Lee took her to meet Williams at her fruit and vegetable stand off Highway 60 east of Brandon shortly after. The two women formed a special friendship that continues to this day.

As their friendship developed, so did Gibson's interest in other regional folk artists. She regularly traveled to the Tyson Trading Company in Tallahassee where she was introduced to the work of visionary artists such as Mary Proctor, known as "Missionary Mary."

Gibson was constantly searching for new talent, never shying from an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the creators about their work.

With an expanding collection of folk art occupying her sparsely furnished South Tampa home, Gibson contemplated opening her doors to art lovers at the suggestion of friend Sue Blankenship. After initially deciding against the idea, she changed her mind and began calling up local artists to participate. She ended up with eight artists who each brought five to 10 pieces of their work to display.

Arthouse3 Emerges From Success

That first event, dubbed "Arthouse," was held in March 2001 and drew nearly 100 people through Gibson's 1,750-square-foot home during its four-day run. Its success hinged on the fact that it was accessible -- a comforting, pretention-free environment aided by a crowd-pleasing homemade sangria and great coffee.

"The idea was to foster an interest in collecting," she says. "Part of it is encouragement, making ways for them to see things they might not go out and see for themselves at a museum."

In the months following "Arthouse," attendees began enlisting Gibson's help to find art for their homes. That enthusiasm encouraged her to set up Arthouse3, an art consulting firm for both residential and corporate clients that emphasizes the work of regional art and local artists.

She's traveled to the homes of clients in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay with a car full of art to gauge their personal style and find the perfect conversation piece within their budget.

"I usually recommend that I actually come to their house," Gibson says. "You can learn a lot about someone's taste in art by being in their personal space."

She's also established long-standing relationships with corporate clients, building a substantial collection of paintings and sculptures for the Tampa-based offices of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP., among others.

Florida Artists Grow With Gallery 221

In August 2011 Gibson became the gallery director at Gallery 221, located on the second floor of the library at Hillsborough Community College's Dale Mabry campus.

The gallery not only specializes in displaying the work of nationally recognized talent, but also includes emerging and established local artists, such as its September exhibit featuring New York-based artist and Tampa native Josette Urso and its October exhibit featuring wood sculptor Charles Parkhill, a former Tampa resident and graduate of USF who now lives in Sanford near Orlando.

A faculty-staff multimedia show will run from Nov. 8 through Dec. 10.

Although Gibson no longer hosts open house art shows -- she sold her home and moved into an apartment in downtown Tampa's Skypoint two years ago -- she continues to offer her services as a consultant to those who seek it.

Building an art collection is a lot like developing your taste in wine, according to Gibson. You may not know anything about art, but you know what you like and you know how much you're able to spend on it -- whether it's $10 or $1,000.

"You don't have to have a museum collection in your home to be a collector," she says. "If you have more than one piece you already are."

Matt Spencer, a University of South Florida grad, is a native Floridian who enjoys sharing his love for Patty Griffin, browsing produce stands, spending hours in record shops and gawking at the ice cream selection in grocery stores. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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