As the SMART Ride gears up for another year, one local resident is busy raising funds for the charity by selling artwork to customers at Vitambi Springs.
Michael Gluckman, a professional framer, is asking people, businesses, and galleries to donate materials to frame donated artwork. Gluckman will sell the art in pop-up galleries at Vitambi Springs, a gay campground 20 miles south of Lake Okeechobee.
All of the money raised goes to the SMART Ride, a two-day event in which bicyclists ride from Miami to Key West to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS.
Gluckman said that he got the idea months ago while thinking about how he could generate more donations for his participation in the event.
“Several months ago I thought about framing artwork, using donated frames, hanging them in a public venue, and selling them,” he said.
Gluckman, who is a founding member of the gay motorcycle club, Stonewall Knights, said that besides selling framed artwork, he’s also a part of the motorcycle convoy that leads and protects the bicyclists during the two-day event.
“We ride along with the bicyclists to help ensure their safety and well-being. Posting ourselves at intersections, or making sure they stay hydrated and helping when they break down,” he said.
Each year more than 400 cyclists and about 20 motorcyclists take the trip down to Key West from Miami.
According to Gluckman, he’s sold around $700 worth of art so with all of the funds going toward the SMART ride.
The frames, which feature paintings by J.J. Audubon also can come with antique local maps and antique engravings.
He said that he is open to other public hangings to see the frames and artwork.
Having been involved in the framing industry for almost 30 years, Gluckman said that due to his connections, he was able to get frames donated to him. He then hangs them in venues and sells them.
“I hope in the future to get other framing materials given to me for the cause. That would increase the profits to the ride,” he said.
Gluckman has been involved with the SMART ride for about 14 years and he’s been present for all but two of them since 2003.
He said that the bicyclists often feel bad for him riding long distance with his motorcycle but for him, it’s second nature.
“I’ve been riding long distance with the crew to places up the state like Orlando and Tallahassee, so to me going down from Miami to Key West is nothing.”
Martin Ruddock, one of the managing members of Vitambi Springs said that idea for the paintings came up during renovations of the campground’s restaurant.
“Gluckman approached us and since he was in the professional framing business, he asked us if we wanted some free frames essentially scraps and prints to go along with them and the proceeds would go to SMART ride,” he said.
Ruddock said it was a “win, win, win situation as the restaurant got artwork, Gluckman got to use the excess material, and the charity got money.”
The managing member said that because the campground had to operate on a shoestring budget during renovations the original plans called for a bamboo screening.
“The bamboo screening was just something to put up on the wall while renovating so that why it was so special that all of his prints dealt with nature, Florida and the Audubon society”
The Audubon society, created in 1905 by John Audubon is an organization that deals with cataloging and registering birds of North America.
Ruddock said that they don’t collect funds for SMART ride but if people do want to purchase one of the prints hanging in the campground restaurant, they are open to being bought.