Reimagining Sarasota with Sam Alfstad

Arts & Culture

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JAN 30, 2015

With the opening of his latest gallery, Alfstad& Contemporary, which debuted last week with the sculptural small works showcase Rubber, Metal and Stone, Sam Alfstad aims to not only bring a little energy to the ever-on-the-cusp Rosemary District but breathe new life into Sarasota’s whole contemporary art enterprise.

“There’s a real space for more contemporary art, to showcase something a little bit to the left,” said Alfstad. Established names and big money producers aren’t Alfstad’s focus; developing local emerging artists and giving them a space to create a cultural nexus within their hometown is. “We’re going to find talent here in Sarasota and we’re going to make relationships with those artists.”

With this in mind, Alfstad& Contemporary is set up to be much more than a gallery. Equipped with facilities and materials for printing, silk-screening and more, Alfstad envisions his space on 5th Street eventually becoming a hub for artists looking not only to showcase their work, but also develop their craft and expand their mediums. Printing also holds that singular place between personal and mass-market art–designed for mass production but made with the care of any painting, it’s simultaneously artistically valuable and affordable. Just as artists gain a space to experiment with their work, the viewing public can experiment with their art collections without breaking the bank. “The same way we want to develop artists,” said Alfstad, “we want to develop collectors.”

One of the factors working against The IceHouse, Alfstad says of his past gallery on 10th Street, was the emphasis on large-scale work, the kind of art that rooms are built around, the kind that’s hard to move. This time around, Alfstad chose to direct his efforts toward finding and showcasing collections of smaller works–prints, paintings, sculptures and everything in between–of a sort that even collectors without devoted in-home gallery space can imagine showing. Many of the past lessons and future plans are exemplified in Alfstad&’s ongoing partnership with the newly rebranded Sarasota Sculpture Center, previously Season of Sculpture. Alfstad sits on the board but largely maintains a supportive role, supplying office and gallery space for the sculpture community to grow. And by curating smaller shows year-round instead of being limited to a largely seasonal public presence, Alfstad hopes to kickstart a greater general appreciation of the medium.

At a more fundamental level, Alfstad wants to bring the Sarasota gallery scene into the 21st century by establishing a more comprehensive and active online presence, showing and selling. “Industry after industry has been revolutionized by the fact that people can shop online,” said Alfstad, who remembers when naysayers declared nobody would ever buy clothes online, unable to feel the cloth or test the fit. “If you’re dependent on who comes walking in the door to sell, it’s behind the times.”

Rubber, Metal and Stone, featuring the works of Chakaia Booker, Hans Van de Bovenkamp and Boaz Vaadia is currently on display at Alfstad& Contemporary and runs until Feb. 20.

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