There is a third crowd, and that’s the Bah Humbug crew that skips the tinsel, trimmings, and mayhem altogether. Whichever group you belong to, today’s column is designed to please. It’s a feel-good story with a splash of color; the perfect way to wrap up an art-filled year.
A growing collection of art
For the Guisinger family of Sanford, the monthly Alive After 5 downtown street party turns into an art excursion with tangible results. Over the past year, they have made a regular visit to Gallery on First, where the children purchase small wooden blocks from the brightly painted Vend-O-Art machine in the front window. Their collection now numbers 27 blocks.
The wooden blocks are painted by the local studio artists of Gallery on First and sell for $5 each.
“We love downtown Sanford and have tried to support any business that we can to make it thrive,” Patrice Guisinger said. “We were so thrilled when Alive After 5 began. It's a great way to come to town with the children and walk around and enjoy the music, the art, food and people. We also love coming to Gallery on First. I love that looking at art is not intimidating for my children and that they genuinely like to see what is new. They look forward to seeing the artists and talking with them and, of course, searching for their next Vend-O-Art block.”
Ever since the 2005 opening of Gallery on First, the Guisingers – Matt, Patrice, Samantha and Preston – have visited the studio artists on a regular basis and have made friends. The kids make a beeline for the vending machine as soon as they enter the gallery.
Instead of dispensing cigarettes and candy, this vintage machine holds miniature wooden blocks, all original works of art by local artists.
According to painter Stewart Jones, “I look forward to Alive After 5, anticipating that the Guisingers will be stopping by. I always get a great pleasure out of talking to their family.”
Jones recalls the enthusiasm that 2nd grader Preston displayed upon his first purchase. “He came into my studio waving the block in his hand,” Jones said. “He wanted to meet the artist that did the painting that he had just purchased. That is what Gallery on First is about, meeting and talking with the various artists in person.”
Fifth-grader Samantha is hard pressed to choose a favorite among the artists or her many blocks. During the past 13 months, she has added a peace dove, wolf, canoeist, parrot, waterfall, landscape, snowman and the North Star to her collection.
Starting an art collection at such a young age is not surprising for these two siblings since their grandfather is an artist and has shared that love with his grandchildren. Samantha appears to be following in his footsteps, with a recent first place award at Wilson Elementary for the Seminole County Reflections program.
The painting she did was inspired by a block from her collection, painted by Cindy Sturla who shares studio space with Jones.
Preston and Samantha have become such regular customers with Jones that he often sets aside a few blocks for them to look at before putting them in the Vend-O-Art machine for everyone else. While that might be considered special treatment, they’ve certainly earned it in Jones’ eyes. He considers these two devoted art lovers to be valuable patrons-in-the-making.
Jones admits that painting on such a small scale is a nice change from his other work. Since 1978 he has completed more than 1,000 paintings with watercolor.
“Everything I paint is an original piece of art, and these acrylic on wood paintings are another way to express myself,” he said.
To paint the blocks, he usually chooses images from photographs that he has taken. He lines up four blocks and four photos and moves his paintbrush from one block to the next, using the same color on each block. After cleaning his brush, he chooses another color and works it into all four blocks, like a mini assembly line.
“If I like the small painting I will sometimes do a larger version in watercolor to exhibit in my studio, take to art festivals or enter into art contests,” Jones said. He regularly adds new work to his website at www.stewartjonesart.com and writes a blog to capture his experiences painting outdoors at stewartjonesart.blogspot.com.
You can see Jones’ work along with the eight other artists of Gallery on First at
211 E. 1st St.
And if Preston and Samantha haven’t bought up all the blocks, you’re sure to find a small treasure for yourself there.
MK Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.