The Gainesville Arts Studio, owned by Iris Coe-Gross and her husband, opens its doors tonight on South Main Street with an Artwalk reception that includes paintings by Aaron D. Coe, live music and refreshments.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Iris Coe-Gross received a diagnosis that every woman dreads: Stage 4 breast cancer. It was a cruel joke considering that Coe-Gross, then an oncology nurse at Shands, had helped countless cancer patients cope with their disease.
While undergoing chemotherapy treatment, Coe-Gross received a gift from her Aunt Delores that included some watercolors and postcard-size paper on which to paint.
“We started to do Christmas cards with the postcards and just kids’ watercolors,” Coe-Gross said. “Then I kept doing more and more, playing around with it, and it opened the door for me.”
Today, despite a 1-percent chance for remission, Coe-Gross is defeating her cancer, retired from nursing and happily moving on to the next phase of her life. To no one’s surprise, that next phase involves art.
Tonight, Coe-Gross swings open the doors to the Gainesville Arts Studio (GAS) at 618 S. Main St., adjacent to the Freewheel Project and LEJ Pretzels. There will be a reception and open house from 7-10 p.m. during the monthly Artwalk Gainesville. The public is invited to attend.
Artwalk is a self-guided tour of galleries and other art spaces in and around downtown Gainesville. The first Artwalk of 2017 includes some 19 stops that feature visual art, live performances and/or art-themed events.
The opening exhibit of the Gainesville Arts Studio features the watercolors of Aaron D. Coe, who is the brother of the gallery owner. Coe’s Wild Bird exhibition includes 23 paintings. His subjects include the bald eagle, a yellow-rumped warbler, a great blue heron, a belted kingfisher and sandhill crane.
“My brother is so amazingly talented in whatever he strives to do,” Coe-Gross said. “He especially loves watercolors because he can control it so well. I’m so proud of him.”
Coe, 45, is a Gainesville native who now resides in St. Augustine. At one point, he was an acting teacher at Santa Fe High School and then pursued an acting career in New York City. When that career failed to take off, Coe became an NYPD police officer, working a beat in Brooklyn for five years in what his sister refers to as “His biggest performance of all.”
Only when he retired from the police force and moved to St. Augustine five years ago did he take up painting. His work is on display in the studio’s deWolfe Gallery, named after Kenneth deWolfe. He was the grandfather of Coe and Coe-Gross who produced abstract and impressionism paintings in the 1950s.
Iris Coe-Gross, like her brother, only took up painting in recent years following her health scare. The influences for her striking acrylic and oil creations are Pablo Picasso and Mexican artist Frida Khalo.
“I never studied art; I’m self-trained,” she said. “I call it intuitive art. It’s a pretty broad category with no rules.”
Coe-Gross said that painting is her therapy.
“Art is not as important as my medication, but emotionally and physically it’s the medicine I have to take every day,” she said. “I’m really into arts and healing. That’s why I wanted to start the studio.”
She and her husband moved into their studio a month ago and share a large space with portrait photographer Kristin Kozelsky. Coe-Gross teaches intuitive art classes once a week and a kids class each month. This summer she wants to open her studio to aspiring artists in the nearby Porters community.
“I hope to get people from the Arts in Medicine and arts therapy programs to come in her and teach classes and work with the community,” she added. “The studio is meant for me not to showcase myself but to be able to focus on the spiritual path of growth I’m on.”
Mike Gross said his wife’s cancer scare has made each day a gift for them and their two children, ages 3 and 5.
“Both of our outlooks on life have changed,” he said. “This studio is her purpose right now.”
In addition to operating the Gainesville Arts Studio, Coe-Gross said she wants to go back to school and study Arts in Medicine and embrace her family.
“I just feel fortunate to have every day,” she said. “It’s a plus-one.”
— Noel Leroux
At least 19 galleries and art spaces around downtown Gainesville will open their doors from 7-10 p.m. for the monthly, self-guided Artwalk. Here are some of the highlights:
Civic Media Center, 433 S. Main St.: Artist Jane Wilson presents “Yarn, Paint & Power Tools.” Her work encompasses a variety of styles, images and media/materials.
4MOST Gallery, 534 SW 4th Ave.: Exhibitions by students and faculty of the UF School of Art and Art History. The Warp House is also a part of 4MOST and is for undergrad learning and classes in the arts.
Hippodrome Gallery, 25 SE 2nd Place: Longtime Gainesville artists Bill Paine and Susan Nash present: “Look What We Found!” The couple specialize in found-object art created using vintage and household items. The exhibit features 16 of Paine’s lamps and 31 of Nash’s sculptures using repurposed items.
Maude’s Classic Café, 101 SE 2nd Place, Suite 101: Featuring Palatka artist and native Morgan Motes. “In this exhibit, I am trying to be as vulnerable and honest as ever. For me, creating art is a way to speak when I can’t find the courage to use words.”
Artisans’ Guild Gallery, 201 SE 2nd Place, Suite 113: “Fresh Start, New Art,” featuring locally made fine art and fine crafts for home or office.
Black C Art Gallery, 111 SE 2nd Place: Featuring the artwork of gallery owner Ani Collier in the exhibition “Cityscapes” and performance art happenings with Collier, Nichole Hamilton, Emily Norcia, Jason Potak and Tony Berry. Their performance, titled “Fluid,” explores burgeoning questions regarding gender roles and sexual identity.
Sweetwater Print Cooperative, 117 S. Main St.: “The Art and Craft of Printmaking” in conjunction with “Meant to be Shared,” the Harn Museum’s exhibit of prints from Yale University’s Arthur Ross collection of prints. Sweetwater’s show focuses on the craft of making prints as practiced by local artists.
Eleanor Blair Studios, 113 S. Main St.: Special guest host Hector Puig will be at the studio showing a collection of work by Lennie Kesl, Sylvia McIntyre-Crook and Sharon McGinley.
The Bull, 18 SW 1st Ave.: Featuring local print maker and art educator Molly Kempson, whose work centers on the architecture, language, flora and fauna of the South. Each image is made by carving and printing a linoleum or woodcut block to paper on an etching or letterpress in small numbered editions.
City Church, 19 SW 1st St. Featuring the collages of Laura Richards. “My works are made through traditional collage techniques, using photographic prints, drawings and found imagery to create an alternative view of the world that celebrates nature, beauty and the imagination.”
Hardback Café, 211 W. University Ave. “Classic Beat,” artwork by Michael Garvin and music by Swampland Troubadour.
The Upstairs Gallery (above The Atlantic), 15 N Main St.: Exhibits “A Song Asunder” with local artists Dessarae Bassil, Micah Daw, Kane Hambrick, Josh Hobson, Lisa Inglesias, Josiah Lloyd, Soloman Sanders, Steven Speir, Chase Westfall, Hilary White and Cody Wicker.
The DNA By the Hand of Man Gallery, 218 NW 2nd Ave.: Featured artist Nico Mazza will also be running tango lessons in the downstairs gallery on Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. and Jan. 29 at 5 p.m., hosting Adam and Ciko from NYC, in a series of tango workshops and a special milonga on Sunday evening.
The Vine, 627 N. Main St.: Presents musician and digital visual artist Howard Wapner. Musically his focus is on jazz and reggae. He and his trio will be performing during Artwalk.
Marcus Collier Studio/Home/Shop & Show Rooms: 1114 NE 5th St.: “A Work in Progress,” Marcus will open his home/studio with this first in a series of woodworking shows featuring Commissions In Progress. His first example is a high-end walnut writing and backgammon table.
For further details, visit the Artwalk Gainesville website.