Arts center plans downtown presence
By LEON M. TUCKER
© St. Petersburg Times,
DUNEDIN -- In an effort to increase awareness and give more exposure to its artists, the Dunedin Fine Arts Center is planning to open a gift shop inside Douglas Village.
The center's current gift shop at 1143 Michigan Blvd., which will remain open, offers not only commercially produced T-shirts and greeting cards but handmade jewelry and other artistic items as well.
Last month workers began painting walls and installing lighting and shelves inside the Broadway shop, with plans to open the store by Labor Day.
"We had been talking for a number of years about trying to have a downtown window," said Susan Gehring, an administrative assistant at the center. "We thought it would be nice to have a way to show off the art center downtown."
The new store, at 719 Broadway, will showcase original work in a gallerylike setting.
"I think it is positive because it will bring another element to the village," said Patricia Higgins, manager of Vista Galleries, an art and framing shop. "We are always trying to appeal to the people in the community -- not just the tourists."
Douglas Village, a string of eight shops along Broadway, links Main and Scotland streets. When it opened in March 2000, it was supposed to be a place where Dunedin artists could showcase and sell their art.
But it did not work out that way.
"Not all the stores that were here at first were art-oriented," said Gina Ealy, property manager for Douglas Village.
Three such businesses -- a lotion boutique, jewelry store and antique doll shop -- have closed since April. The spaces occupied by the lotion and doll shops have been taken over by the fine arts center and a store that sells original greeting cards and other artistic paper items. One space remains open.
The change, meanwhile, is a welcome one for village artists such as Faith Krucina.
"I'm happy they are coming in because I think they will attract more people," said Krucina, who sells her art out of her Artistic Impressions gallery. "Having more art around me is an asset to this place being more of a destination location" for those interested in art. Part of a $1.3-million downtown redevelopment effort initiated by the city, Douglas Village cost $900,000 to build and helps anchor the western edge of downtown. But not everyone knew it existed.
"Some people would come down and say, "We didn't even know you were here,"' Ealy said. "But I think the city has taken an interest in helping us advertise."
City workers installed signs directing people to the village and a brick walkway that connects the eastern portion of the village to the Pinellas Trail.
"It's always nice to have a tie-in with the arts and downtown," said Bob Ironsmith, economic development director for Dunedin. "But having the Fine Arts Center's retail store there will add a lot to Douglas Village and will be a good fit."
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