It says a lot about a community and its appreciation of arts and culture when new art galleries open their doors. Marion County has become home and host to numerous artists, art organizations and foundations, galleries, art installations, art-centric cultural events and so much more. As the expansion of the county continues, the following new art galleries have joined the ranks of some of the area’s newest and most prolific creators.
Gallery B an Art Collective
405 E. Silver Springs Boulevard
Gallery B Art Collective is a collaboration between a group of artist friends: Jaycee Oliver, Sandy Sanders, Laurie Kopec, Carlynne Hershberger and Julie Shealy. This unique art experience includes works from each of the five artists along with fine art gift items from other local artists.
Laurie Kopec initially found inspiration by Plein Air Painting.
“We sort of started this as an experiment,” Kopec says. “We did a holiday art show together last year. We ended up having so much fun together that we decided ‘Hey, let’s keep doing this.’
“I’m inspired by being on location with the landscapes and animals and just things I see along my walk every day.”
Sandy Sanders’ background is in nursing. She started painting about three years ago after an injury. Now when she looks at her gallery wall at Studio B she thinks, ‘Wow, I did that!’
“I now see the world in watercolor, which is strange for someone whose mind has always thought of themselves as math-science. It’s like new channels open in your brain, that creative part of me has opened up,” Sanders says.
Jaycee Oliver began painting three years ago after the death of her son.
“Being an artist can be very isolating because you’re all alone. It has been wonderful to collaborate, to gain insight and to just talk shop with other people. And, as well, share our experiences with the community, so that has been an amazing thing for me.”
Hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 am-4 pm
Also by appointment. Art classes are also available.
The Art Studio
3900 S. Pine Avenue
Michelle St. Laurent started painting at the age of six and knew early on that she wanted to be a professional artist with the Disney Design Group.
For 20 years she has been a Disney artist where she designs and creates artwork for Disney Fine Art. St. Laurent studied under famed Disney artist Ralph Kent who worked directly with Walt Disney. Her work is on display in galleries across the world and she continues to create images for Disney Fine Art.
She decided to open The Art Studio, an art experience and gallery, where she hosts Paint Parte (as opposed to Party) Fridays, art instruction open to individuals age 16 and up.
“I wanted to be able to share my experience with people and really help them, so that I could direct them in a certain way, whether it’s to a good college, to help them build their portfolio, to gain commissions or to get their art seen by galleries.”
Collections in St. Laurent’s Art Studio include Disney Fine Art created by St. Laurent along with other works by various artists. The gift shop includes art supplies and Disney-themed items.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 am-5:30 pm
8th Ave. Gallery
1531 NE 8th Avenue
Seth Benzel’s background as a horse trainer brought him from Saratoga, New York to Dubai, UEA and eventually to Ocala.
In August of 2018, when his father John L. Benzel, a noted architect and artist, became ill, the father and son duo decided to open a gallery dedicated to each other’s work. The elder Benzel designed the studio space, which has an industrial-warehouse feel, but is softened with the laborious collections of social realism and abstract paintings.
“I was here painting and he was in the back painting,” Benzel says, pointing to a section of the gallery. “It put our attention onto a project, despite the conditions that we were under. He was able to see just enough about what I was gonna do with this space. I think for him that was a great feeling, that his work would be featured and that I would have a place to generate work.”
Benzel’s father passed away in February 2019, but he was able to see from a video that the gallery was near completion. Two weeks after his father’s death, Benzel held the gallery opening where he was able to pay tribute to his father through photographs, anecdotes and the presentation of his father’s artwork.
Hours: By appointment only. 8th Ave. Gallery also offers private art instruction.