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Q&A With Cape Coral Arts Studio's New Director, Julie Gerhard

May 23, 2018 12:09PM ● By Kevin
Cape Coral Arts Studio has seen many changes this past year, many of which driven by its new director, Julie Gerhard. The Florida Gulf Coast University graduate started in her new role in November 2017. Since then, she has helped with efforts to clean up after Hurricane Irma, begun designing a second gallery space, and worked on community outreach to create more meaningful programs to serve local artists - both seasoned veterans and those who aspire.

We caught up with Gerhard to talk about her background, vision, and the Cape Coral community.

Cape Coral Living Magazine: Tell us about yourself.

Julie Gerhard: I grew up in Canada and upstate New York and I moved here in 2003, my senior year of high school. I studied art and Spanish language at Florida Gulf Coast University. I graduated in 2009 and moved to Arizona. I ran a youth ceramics program for the city of Tempe and then moved to Spain for a year to teach English for the Spanish government. I came back to Florida and started working at the Happehatchee Center doing their programing, marketing, classes, and special events.

I wanted to follow my passion, which is the arts, and found this wonderful position. It all worked out pretty nice. It's a fantastic facility. The instructors are phenomenal. The student work is just incredible. I'm consistently surprised and amazed with the quality of work for the monthly exhibitions and when I walk around the studios to see what the students are working on. It's really inspiring.

CCL: What are some of the things you've done in your position?

Gerhard: When I started, it was right after the hurricane. There was literally a tree on top of one of the buildings that all of our administrative offices are in. That process - recovering, getting out of any natural disaster - there's a lot of steps we have to take to repair everything. That was a very unique opportunity to get to know the staff very quickly, because we were all in 15x10 office space.

One of the things I'm really excited about is creating a secondary exhibition space in Building 2, the administrative building that just reopened. Before we reopened, a week or two after the electricity came back on, we had an opportunity to work with the Southwest Florida Fine Craft Guild to create this hallway exhibition space, so when we have our monthly gallery opening in the main gallery, we can also have a side gallery that features and showcases local artists as well.

It will feature paintings, sculptures, mixed media work from individual artists. It's a one-to-three-artist show. It won't be as much as an open call like our main galleries are, which normally feature about 40 artists. I see different artists who are exhibiting in the area, find connections between their work, and then make a small exhibit here that showcases maybe a different theme or something that is unique to our community.

CCL: What are your plans for the studio in the future?

Gerhard: I have a lot. Where do I start? Some of the things are small, but a big one that's taking priority is providing more one-day events, where students can come and don't have to commit to a seven-week ongoing class. They can pop in for three hours, make a special project and take it home that day, and bring their friends. The idea is to have more of a community event type of class.

We have the facilities and equipment to do really cool, unique one-day events that I'm excited about. Our one-events or Creative Express is starting in a few days with the first event being Glass Beadmaking Express. It's with a torch and glass rods. You learn how to melt glass, use a torch and everyone's trying to make something, like a fish, so that you have a goal or project, but it has a little more room for creativity. It is already full and we have people on the waiting list to sign up for the next one.

I love Painting With A Twist and those kinds of events, so I wanted to take a little bit of that and make it something more advanced and exciting.

The Arts Studio received a grant to remodel the fine art gallery. It's happening over the next 12 months. We'll redo all the walls and ceiling to get better lighting to better exhibit the artwork. Both buildings will be transitioned to LED lighting.

We're continuing to work on the facilities. In my role, I also manage Rubicond Park, where the art studio is located. One thing I'm very passionate about is the environment. I plan to incorporate more native species and public art pieces in Rubicond Park and around Cape Coral to create a deeper sense of place in community with residents and visitors. 

CCL: Anything else you'd like to add?

Gerhard: If you haven’t been to the arts studio, stop by for a tour of the studios and gallery. We have a great gift shop that features artwork made by local artists, instructors and students. If you need art supplies, we’ve got you covered with the fully stocked arts supply store. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with our events and monthly art exhibits.

The annual Cape Coral Arts and Music Festival takes place in January and is run by the Rotary Club. We have a booth there with different art demos and I've been asking the community what they would like to see at their local arts center. What kind of classes do you want to take? What art mediums excite you the most? Do you have a special skill or is there something you’d like to teach? As a part of the parks and recreation department and the city, we strive to provide a premiere space for arts and culture.