Wilton Drive Gallery Owners Want Artsier Wilton Manors

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For a city that’s known as a gay destination, Tom Rossetti said there should be much more public art.

“It’s a gay community. It should be more artsy . . . Anything to make it look more cultural.” Rossetti, owner of the Rossetti Fine Art gallery on Wilton Drive, said he’d like to see city officials do more to bring more public art here “to make it feel more artsy.”

In an effort to create more public art and encourage tourism, Wilton Manors is working on a photo spot at Jaycee Park. The goal is to create a space that people will want to take photos in front of and share on social media.

But Rossetti and other Wilton Drive gallery owners aren’t waiting for the city to do something.

Last week, a meeting of gallery owners and others was held to discuss the possibility of extending the Wilton Manors Arts & Entertainment Expo season, currently held January to March, to something held every month. The Expo is an event where restaurants and businesses along Wilton Drive and Dixie Highway host local artists who showcase their work. It was originally known as the Art Walk.

Aster da Fonseca, owner of the da Fonseca Contemporanea gallery, said there’s more interest in art here than some people might know.

“It doesn’t seem like it but there are a lot of people interested in art. I think the neighborhood has the potential to have an art walk every month,” said da Fonseca. “We’re trying to make Wilton Drive an art-related environment . . . to become community where one gallery can help another gallery. I could easily introduce [customers] to other galleries if I don’t have something that fits their taste.”

He added that the Expo is good for the galleries as well as the bars and restaurants because it has the potential to bring more people to Wilton Drive.

“That is something that would benefit everybody. We’re all here to make some money . . . but also I think it’s important to introduce new venues to people, have them meet artists that are local. There are so many here.”

More galleries is also something that the current gallery owners would like to see.

“The more galleries, the better,” said Rossetti.

More art and art galleries, is something Doug Blevins also favors.

“I think it’s a very, very important part of the future development of Wilton Drive. Right now, they’re overshadowed by the bars and restaurants,” said Blevins, chair of the Wilton Drive Improvement District. He added that art is on an upswing in Wilton Manors.

He pointed to the recent relocation of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra, from Downtown Fort Lauderdale to Wilton Drive, as an example of how the city is becoming more artistic and cultural.

Gerard Delaney, executive director of the Broward Art Guild, said the city’s art scene has developed greatly since it was reborn as a community with a large LGBT population.

“There’s a lot more galleries. There’s a sense of community and community support. I think Wilton Manors is coming into its own from that standpoint.” And as more residential development occurs in and around the city, Delaney said it will increase the demand for art and possibly lead to more galleries. “I always say that new homes have naked walls that need art.”

The newest gallery, Claudia Castillo Art Gallery, held its grand opening July 8. The owner, Claudia Castillo, said she chose Wilton Manors because she likes the diversity of the community.

Maciel Cantelmo, co-owner of Gallery XO, said the city needs more than just an increase in the number of art galleries. It needs an art gallery that draws a lot of interest. “Something with more oomph.”

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