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Art Gallery of Viera Creates a Thriving Arts Community

By S. Mathur

The artist-owned-and-run gallery, Art Gallery Viera, opened its doors in 2009 and has come to be regarded as the leading fine arts gallery in central Florida. It has a friendly and welcoming feel, and the range of art has been described as everything from classic to coastal. Visitors can find all kinds of artwork, ranging from paintings in watercolor and oils to pottery and jewelry. The natural world of Florida, with its unique flora and fauna, plays a major role in the displays and exhibitions.

"Art Gallery of Viera was first conceived at the request of a local business owner who felt there was a need/market for an art gallery in Viera. She owned a frame shop and asked two of her regular customers, who were artists, if they would like to consider the idea," executive director Susan Stone said, "Helen Wheatley was one of those original artists and still remains as one of the owners today."

Jeanette Drake is another artist-owner who signed on in the early years. Other owners at the present time include Ruth Ann Alibrando and Chelsey Austin. Most of the artists are well known nationally and internationally.

The gallery also runs a large art education center, with art classes for adults, teens and children.

"The plan was to create a thriving arts community in Viera by being a place where artists could come talk about art, get inspired, apply to exhibit their work and community members could take classes, attend workshops or watch demonstrations and talk to the artists to learn more about art and how it is created," Stone said.

Members staff the gallery and are always happy to talk to visitors about the works on display.

"Each month, a member artist is selected to be our Featured Artist, it is on a rotational basis," Stone said, "This gives the artist a chance to spotlight their work beyond their normal display space and gives them a chance to share their art and their story with the community. In the past we have also highlighted outside artists that won our 'People's Choice' award in a designated show, or to honor late members of the gallery who have passed away."

Two artists whose work has been featured recently are Walt Mendenhall, a metal sculptor, and Helen Wheatley, who works in different mediums. The gallery will celebrate it's eighth anniversary in May.

Classes at the gallery are open to all, from beginners to experts. People at different skill levels can benefit from the same workshop. Details of the classes are available at the gallery website,http://www.artgalleryofviera.com/, and in the store. The gallery also hosts painting parties, which can be set up by request. Artists are invited to apply for membership or to participate in open shows.

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