People who are artistic visionaries can look at a lump of clay and see a finished work of art. When Constance Ruppender participated in a Jazzercise class inside the Woman's Club of Wilton Manors, the president of the Central Area Neighborhood Association of Wilton Manors (CNAWM), saw a different use for the space; it was a space filled with people, art and activity. She envisioned Art Gallery 21.
The idea actually took root when the new Wilton Manors City Hall was built in 2010. "There was no money in the budget to buy artwork for the walls," says Ruppender. So, CANA worked with Leisure Services Director Patrick Cann and his staff and invited artists to submit their work. "Every month, a different artist hangs their work in City Hall. And we have sold pieces of art for the artist and the neighborhood association gets a percentage, too. It has been wonderfully well received. It was the jumping off point when we discovered the Woman's Club was vacant," she says.
The Woman's Club was chartered in the State of Florida and federated internationally in 1949. Ground for their permanent clubhouse was broken in April 1955 on land donated by Alvar Hagen, according to a story by Paul A. Kuta of the Wilton Manors Historical Society . "The Woman's Club deeded the property to the city of Wilton Manors in 2010," says Ruppender.
CANA's art project at City Hall gave the association the credibility for the city to be receptive to the idea of the group, in cooperation with the city's Leisure Services Department, to create an arts and cultural center inside the Woman's Club. "The idea that this could become a vital addition to Wilton Manors' arts and entertainment district peaked interest."
Since July 2012, Art Gallery 21 at the Woman's Club of Wilton Manors, 600 N.E. 21 Court, has hosted a new artist's show every month. Shows are lined up for 2013 and Ruppender says they are working to get more artists involved in using the facility, whether they show their work, give a lecture, or host a workshop. The possibilities are endless. But the ultimate goal the organization has for Gallery 21 is to "get on the map" with the art community.
To that end, the City of Wilton Manors Leisure Services Department and CANA are hosting its first annual Juried Art Exhibition, and they are issuing a call for artists. The First Annual Island City Juried Art Exhibition will be on display from Nov. 30 through Dec. 21. Artwork in all mediums will be considered and should be delivered to Art Gallery 21 on Saturday, Nov. 24, between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The fee is $20 per entry. Top three winners will be announced at the opening night of the exhibit, Friday, Nov. 30, and will be awarded cash prizes. Winners will also be given the opportunity to show their work at Art Gallery 21 in January as the opening exhibit of the New Year from Jan. 18 to Feb. 8, 2013.
Revenue from the juried show will benefit "keeping intact the integrity of the building," says Ruppender. "It's a really good cause. We're in it for the long haul here and we do have long-term plans."
She invites anyone who has an idea for a program to feel free to contact her. CANA and the Leisure Services Department would like the space to be used for an afterschool art program, perhaps, and, as a space for South Florida artists to teach classes. Lectures are already scheduled for the new year and they include topics such as Copyright Law and Its Effect On Artists, and Using Social Media To Promote Your Artwork.
And, with its mission as a cultural center, too, Art Gallery 21 will be the new home of The Women's Theatre Project's Girl Play, the wildly popular Lesbian Play Reading Festival of original works, which will be performed for three days in June 2013.
The gallery is part of a larger vision, for sure. Ruppender says she's a firm believer in Cosmic Velcro. "People start to latch on and it takes on a life of its own, and then it's not yours anymore. It's everyone's."
Art Gallery 21 at the Woman's Club of Wilton Manors, 600 N.E. 21 Court. Open Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 21, 2012.
The Artist Entry Rules & Form for the First Annual Island City Juried Art Exhibition is available at www.canawm.org or by e-mail request to PoetC7@aol.com with “Call For Artists” in the subject line.