You don’t just shop at Bradenton’s Village of the Arts; you cultivate your inner artist. Browsing a bewitching blend of galleries, crafts workshops, boutiques, magic and music studios, you feel the latent painter, potter or quilter in you emerge. Hold that feeling and sign up for one of the tempting classes offered by the artists in their studios. The Village of the Arts has seduced many visitors into embarking on lifelong hobbies—perhaps even second careers.
A big part of the charm is the neighborhood, which stretches between Ninth and 16th avenues west and from Ninth to 14th streets west in downtown Bradenton. Thanks to courageous local artists and clever city officials (who zoned the area to allow residents to live and work in their homes), the artists’ colony of whimsically restored 1920s bungalows that emerged from a once crime-ridden, rundown area of town now serves as a model for similar revitalization projects around the nation.
Time Management Start with the first-ever exhibition (A Village Sampler, through January) at the new Welcome Center (926 12th St. W.) for a preview of arts and crafts found at 40 shops and galleries in Florida’s largest artist community. Check villageofthearts.com for Individual store hours. ArtWalks are held the first Friday (6-9:30 p.m.) and Saturday (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) of each month. Whimsical fish clocks made with found objects are the specialty of Gordon Turner at Baobab Tree Gallery, 1113 12th St. (941) 447-3795.
Braveheart Vicki Rollo, a jewelry designer who believed in the nascent village’s potential, opened a gallery that show-cases her own work as well as fine art, crafts and exquisite clothing from local and national artisans, including an appropriately heart-clasped purse by Sarasota-based fiber artist Nancy Faris ($110). Heart’s Desire, 1221 12th St. W. (941) 302-1069.
Village People Potter Mark Runnals has been featured on HGTV’s Crafters Coast to Coast and attracts collectors nationwide to his studio, featuring wheel-thrown pieces with intricately incised, applied forms like these cutout-style people ($300). The Village Potter, 1015 12th Ave. W. (941) 747-0651.
Rock Stars Jewelry artisans’ studios overflow with must-see gemstones at multi-media Dancing Crane Gallery. Kristie Kindstrom’s one-off necklace of semi-precious stones is a brilliant example. Blue Room Studios in the Dancing Crane, 1019 10th Ave. W. (941) 718-0114.
Meet the Artists
Herbie Rose was named honorary mayor of the Village of the Arts by Bradenton mayor Wayne Poston. Known for vibrant paintings with a decidedly Caribbean flair, Herbie and wife Graciela Giles (also an important watercolorist) serve as on-call models for portraits of one another, though he painted the one of him above. Rose-Giles Studio, 923 13th St. W. Zoe Von Averkamp showcases Florida folk art at her gallery, Divine Excess, including altars and spiritual objects she creates from found objects. Look for seven whimsical portraits of Southern folk artists (including Missionary Mary Proctor and Ruby C. Williams) by Katherine Michaels, and this one of Zoe commissioned by husband Jerry as a 50th anniversary gift. Divine Excess, 1125 12th St. W. (941) 747-1320.
Chocoholics follow their noses to Bonni Brown’s adorable bakery/café, where she whips up sinfully delicious Chocolate Orgasm cookies, $4.50 for four, "because they like to party together." Bonni Bakes, 930 12th St. W. (941) 746-6647.
Melanie Ann Denicourt shares her passion for accessories at Coquillage.
Melanie Ann Denicourt’s new boutique, Coquillage, expresses her belief that accessories make a home. "They allow your personality and individuality to shine through. You can mix feminine with masculine accessories, modern with traditional, add a whimsical piece to lighten up a serious room," Denicourt explains.
The common denominator in her shop, a potpourri of Swedish, Tuscan and French styles, is softly curved furniture accented with the architectural elements she favors for adding dimension to a room. Born in Iowa and raised in Quebec, Denicourt developed her passion for accessories as a buyer for Leath and Modernage furniture stores in Atlanta and Builder’s Design in Maryland.
Still commuting to Sarasota daily from Apollo Beach (until she and husband Jean Pierre sell their home), Denicourt says the couple has been looking for a Main Street location for two years. "We passed by this empty shop for months, but one day we saw sunlight streaming through the skylight, and knew this was the store of my dreams," she recalls.
Coquillage, 1515 Main St., Sarasota (941) 487-7160
Get Melanie’s Look
European coastal style at Coquillage is inspired by timeless accessories like Aidan Gray’s 92-inch-tall indoor-outdoor topiary, left ($475), in which one customer plans to grow bougainvillea.
Can’t live without "I’m a big fan of Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo’s books. I can’t live without them or my beautiful accessories in my home. If you are happy with your work, it’s because you are passionate about it and you know it well," says Denicourt, an accessories buyer before opening her store.
What this town needs "It would be great to have a mini-spa where women could unwind with friends for a girls’ night out: sip a glass of champagne, nibble on cupcakes or a piece of chocolate and at the same time get a pedicure or manicure done. That’s missing in Sarasota."