Bradenton’s Village of the Arts looks to build momentum in 2017

The best art can provoke, inspire and enlighten. It can also make the world a more beautiful place.

But to do all that, the artist needs to be on sound business footing.

In Bradenton’s eclectic, quirky, unique Village of the Arts, the folks who make and sell the art have some hopes and thoughts going into 2017 for the area stretching roughly from 9th Avenue West to 17th Avenue West between 9th Street West and 14th Street West.

Anna D’Aste, owner of Little Swamp Gallery, 1105 12th St. W., has been in the village almost from its inception in 1999.

D’Aste, who works in clay and mosaics, and who features the work of 12 artists, has seen the ups and downs in the neighborhood.

“It’s an old neighborhood and I like it. We were building momentum until the Great Recession in 2008, when everything stopped. We have been working our way back ever since,” D’Aste said.

Village of the Arts is an art district, but it is also a real neighborhood, where people live and raise children, she said.

“We are kind of working our way back and hope crazy things don’t happen,” D’Aste said. “For me, all I can do is work to make the village a better place.”

Next door at The Baobab Tree Gallery and Studios, 1113 12th St. W., Christine Turner is working through some personal challenges following the death of her husband, Gordon, in October.

The Turners bought their building in 2003 and opened their gallery in 2004, after spending their professional careers in the Syracuse, New York, area as teachers.

“He couldn’t wait to retire from his work as a shop teacher to do his artwork,” Turner said of her late husband.

Some of his pieces of fish-themed art are still on display at Baobab, as are some of Christine Turner’s paintings.

The studio also features the work of other artists as well, including Craig Erlick’s fanciful “Criggles,” art from Cuba, and more.

“The Village of the Arts has managed to survive since 1999. We still have a ways to go,” Turner said.

The Turners were searching for a place to open a studio after their retirement and looked at possible destinations from Wilmington, North Carolina, to New Smyrna Beach.

“We read about Village of the Arts in Art Journaling, and within 24 hours our whole life took a right turn,” Turner said.

“In 2017, I would like to have a new beginning. I have spent a lot of time running the gallery and hope to have time to do more of my art,” she said.

Jim Loftus, a mixed media artist at Piltdown Studios, 1412 11th St. W., said there is a renaissance going on in Village of the Arts.

“We want the village to become an emerging Gulf Coast destination. After you’ve checked out the beach, or it rains, you might want to come down here and check us out,” he said.

James A. Jones Jr.: 941-745-7053, @jajones1