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Tower Gallery features 24 local artists

By Staff | Mar 30, 2016

Artist JoAnne Bedient stands near her raku collection, which is for sale at Tower Gallery. MEGHAN MCCOY

After spending its first 10 years at Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Tower Gallery moved to the island providing a cooperative gallery, now featuring 24 artists in an old house located on Tarpon Bay Road.

JoAnne Bedient said Bell Tower Shops wanted an art gallery at the shopping center in the early 80s, which led to contacting some local artists. She said during those 10 years, the gallery moved to different locations within Bell Tower Shops, as businesses wanted a specific space. As rent continued to increase, the gallery closed at the shops.

Ikki Matsumoto purchased an old house, which was near Island Inn and moved on a flatbed truck to Tarpon Bay Road, opening the gallery on Sanibel Island.

“It had been a dream of mine to take over the building,” Bedient said.

Shirley Vale and Bedient talked over her dream and made a decision in August 1997, opening the doors by Oct. 1.

“I have been in here 24 years now,” she said.

Bedient, also an artist, has many of her raku pieces for sale at the gallery. She received a degree in ceramics in 1977 and set up her studio in 1987.

“I always loved art as a child. Once I took my first ceramics class that was it,” Bedient said.

Meetings are held by a board to keep the gallery running smoothly.

The gallery features 24 artists – painting, sculpture and pottery, mixed media, photography, jewelry and glass art. The artists come from all walks of life and from many different professions. One of the artists featured at the gallery is Charles McCullough. Bedient said they are the only gallery that has his photography for sale.

The gallery is currently looking for a jeweler. Interested artists can download an application from their website, www.towergallery-sanibel.com.

Artists have to be local, as well as year round residents to be featured in the gallery. Artists go through a juried process, which includes bringing some of their pieces to the gallery to show, before they are invited to become apart of the cooperative.

“We try to have a wide variety with different mediums and styles,” she said.

The artists pay a monthly fee, spend three times a month as a working artist at the gallery, as well as being involved in one additional gallery job.

“Everyone pitches in,” Bedient said, which also includes the artists cleaning the building.

The real beauty of the gallery is having the artists working at the gallery. She said the artists have the opportunity to meet the people purchasing their work.

“Being able to meet the artist opens the door to going into other galleries,” Bedient said. “This is a greenhouse for artists and the artists are in full bloom right now.”

With all the artists working at the gallery, they also keep an eye on what pieces are selling. Bedient said this is another great feature of a cooperative because the artists can bring in additional work to fill the space.

“We have some great artists, some of the finest in our area,” she said.

Tower Gallery is located at 751 Tarpon Bay Road. The summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call (239) 472-4557.