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Sarasota’s Free Little Art Gallery reopens its tiny doors under new management

Three women side-by-side, smiling in front of a colorful building
Alejandro Romero
/
Community News Collaborative
Elizabeth Goodwill and Barbara Gerdeman, co-owners of Creative Liberties Artist Studios & Gallery and new curators hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to reopen the gallery’s doors at its new home with Judy Robertson as the guest of honor.

Launched as a community project during the COVID-19 pandemic, artist’s project moves to a new location with the same goal.

A homemade project that helped bring a neighborhood together during the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on a new, broader purpose, evolving in its mission to demystify art and artwork.

Judy Robertson, the founder of the Free Little Art Gallery, demonstrated that it’s not always the size of the art installation that matters, but rather it's the content that makes the difference. “This has been a very loved thing. It makes me a little sad, but it's like it's going off to college and I will visit it often,” Robertson said.

When Robertson opened the Free Little Art Gallery SRQ in her front yard in 2021, she was searching for something that others in her community could look forward to amid the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. Like the familiar Little Free Library concept – people can stop by the free gallery to take an art piece home or leave one for others to enjoy or take.

“I think when the pandemic first hit, we were all outside walking and we'd be walking across the street from each other,” Robertson said. “And when I first opened that gallery, it was still the case. I'd go out there, but I was. We all kept our distance, but it was a common meeting place.”

Art has revolved around Robertson’s life for as long as she can remember. She says she first got the idea to create her own miniature gallery after stumbling across the Free Little Art Gallery concept online. Having been a graphic design artist for 45 years she says of all the creative projects she’s worked on, she is most proud of the Free Little Art Gallery SRQ.

Sign reads: Now Open - Flag SRQ
Alejandro Romero
/
Community News Collaborative
The newly installed Free Little Art Gallery SRQ is now open to the public 24/7 and can now be found at 901 B Apricot Ave in Sarasota as part of the Limelight District.

“I think it's because it built community in the neighborhood. I was able to interact with kids and encourage them in their creative life,” Robertson said. “I could see the spark of a little 7-year-old, you know, with doing wonderful art.”

But after nearly two years since opening the gallery Robertson announced that she was ready to pass the baton to someone else and began her quest to find a new curator and home fit for the gallery. She says several people reached out to her online and was taken aback by the interest of so many.

After the extensive search and interviewing process, Robertson found what she describes as the perfect home for her passion project.

Followers of FLAG SRQ can once again visit the free gallery at its new home in front of the Creative Liberties Artist Studios & Gallery located at 901 B Apricot Ave in Sarasota. “To actually, like, see this here finally, it's just kind of like it proves more of the serendipity of the craziness that has happened,” Elizabeth Goodwill said.

Goodwill alongside Barbara Gerdeman co-founded Creative Liberties in November of 2021 with the goal of helping other artists gain exposure by providing a supportive community space for them to create and sell their work.

Goodwill says she’s been a follower of the Free Little Art Gallery SRQ since it first opened and would even visit it at times to drop off some of her own art. She says once she learned that Robertson was looking for a new home for the gallery, she hoped they would be the ones to chosen by Robertson.

Gerdeman says the mini gallery’s concept of making art freely accessible to everyone falls within the mission they had in mind when they first were coming up with the idea for what service Creative Liberties would offer the community.

“There's a lot of things that are happening now to build a stronger, not only community for the artists themselves, but, like I said, to make art accessible to, you know, members of the community,” Gerdeman said. Goodwill and Gerdeman say they won’t be the only ones curating the gallery’s exhibitions. They plan on having different artists overseeing it to keep the art flow fresh for its frequent visitors.

Though a bittersweet goodbye Robertson plans on visiting the gallery to drop off some of her own artwork. She says she’s excited to see the gallery blossom and sees the unlimited potential it can reach in continuing to service the Suncoast community.

The gallery now joins the upcoming Limelight District which is becoming the new hub for local artists outside of the Rosemary District found in the heart of Downtown Sarasota. As for now Goodwill and Gerdeman say they plan to keep the gallery open to the community 24/7 and anyone is welcome to take or drop off some of their own art to add to the gallery’s exhibition.

This story is courtesy of the Community News Collaborative, made possible by a grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. You can reach Alejandro Romero at alejandro23@cncfl.org

Sign on fence says: Step Right Up! Free
Alejandro Romero
/
Community News Collaborative
The newly installed Free Little Art Gallery SRQ is now open to the public 24/7 and can now be found at 901 B Apricot Ave in Sarasota as part of the Limelight District.