GULFPORT — As the pandemic continues to present challenges to Tampa Bay’s visual art scene, Gulfport’s Brenda McMahon Gallery celebrates the victory of a second anniversary.
The gallery will offer a 10 percent discount for the entire month of May as a thank you to the community. And on May 7 there will be a party with live music by Gale Tripsmith & Company outside the gallery.
After years as a professional artist on the art show circuit, McMahon opened her own gallery in 2019. She started by showing her own ceramic work — saggar-fired vessels and intricate wall tiles — as well as work by 10 artists working in paint, glass, fiber and jewelry, many of them Gulfport residents.
She was savvy about keeping an extensive mailing list and capturing emails in the gallery, and through social media and newsletters she was able to get a following that sustained her for the first year.
But before she could celebrate the gallery’s first anniversary, the pandemic happened.
“When the pandemic hit, my stomach just fell to the floor,” she said. “Oh you’re kidding me, I just invested all this time and energy. I was worried.”
But in the six weeks the gallery remained closed, she got all of the inventory online with the help of fellow artist Diane Bragg, a tremendous effort. Collectors were continuing to make purchases and, once the gallery reopened, McMahon realized she would be okay.
“The community was amazing,” McMahon said. She credited the city of Gulfport’s support and promotion of the arts and small businesses.
The gallery now represents 16 local, regional and national artists. Bragg, who is a glass artist, and painter Jila Davoodi work in the gallery, which creates a personal connection when customers come in.
“I personally love having artists representing themselves in the gallery because it benefits everybody,” McMahon said. She said she couldn’t do everything without the help of Bragg and Davoodi.
The artists are equally effusive about McMahon. Bragg said she considers her a friend and a mentor.
“Brenda, she really helped me to find my place,” said Davoodi. “I thinks she’s an amazing supporter.”
All three artists also teach workshops in a series called A Taste of Art. The small group workshops have been a way for McMahon to create some revenue for the artists, because gallery sales ebb and flow.
Just as she found new ways to do business, McMahon, who is head of the arts committee for the Gulfport Merchants Chamber, led the reconfiguration of the First Friday Art Walk so it could have an outside presence. She is also the director of the Art Jones Studio Tour, which was refined with fewer stops this year. The successful new models will stay in place.
Through the donation of a collector, McMahon will establish an Art Jones Scholarship that will pay for an artist’s place on the tour and ultimately benefit from the group’s promotion.
In January, McMahon started a featured Artist of the Month series in the gallery that features under-represented voices as a commitment to equality and justice. Vivia Barron, who paints African-American folk art, is the featured artist for May.
McMahon is optimistic about the gallery’s future.
“I feel like, if I’m doing this well during a pandemic, I think this is going to work,” she said. “I’m really excited, actually.”
If you go
Brenda McMahon Gallery: A Two-Year Anniversary Celebration. 5-9 p.m. May 7 as part of Gulfport’s First Friday Art Walk. The opening weekend celebration includes a 15 percent discount on wall art and a 10 percent discount on jewelry through Sunday. On Mother’s Day, they will give out flowers to moms. 2901 Beach Blvd. S. brendamcmahongallery.com.