Mize Gallery is known for its creatively themed monthly exhibits. Since opening the gallery in 2018, owner Chad Mize mixes serious themes, such as “Vote,“ prior to the 2020 election, with lighter, pop culture focus, such as “Sounds Good,” a reimagining of iconic album covers.
“I love pop culture and the notion that it is something people can relate to,” says Mize. “We go back and forth between serious themes like ‘Conspiracy’ and fun, lighthearted tongue-in-cheek shows like ‘SMILE.’ My favorite part of coming up with these ideas are when artists drop off their work for a show and I see what they’ve done.”
A graphic designer and web developer, Mize began painting murals on the 600 block of Central Avenue in 2011 and went on to create pieces for Facebook, the Tampa Bay Rays and Busch Gardens, as well as residential art. He opened Mize Gallery at 689 Dr. MLK Jr. St. N., after closing Blue Lucy, the space he had previously owned, in 2014.
The new gallery prompted a new direction, and he started focusing on the thematic shows that local artists could participate in with the goal of 12 exhibits a year.
“I realized that it is my art form and I really enjoy it. I love the communal aspect of having artists learn from each other and connect. We have artists participating in our exhibits that range from 21 year-olds to 71 years of age.”
Mize has developed relationships with local artists and has a large database of those who might want to participate in an upcoming show. This year alone, 287 artists created new works for his shows, which have been virtual since March due to COVID-19. The gallery began opening on weekends, limiting guests to six at a time, in June.
So, how to end 2020 during a year with so many challenges?
When Mize was considering ideas, he knew he wanted to create a positive show to end a crazy year.
“I try to use my art as a positive way to uplift. And I thought a positive theme would help other artists too. So I decided no negative art would be accepted,” he said. “I wanted only a positive vibe. We’ve had enough negative stuff going on this year.”
Mize titled the show Something 2020, and put out a call to artists with the requirement that each submit a piece that focuses on a positive aspect of 2020. More than 120 artists applied, and the list had to be narrowed to about half.
One of those artists is Dawn Waters of Gulfport whose piece is a needle-felted portrait of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris titled “Madam Freaking Vice President.” It’s one of the works featured in the gallery’s press release.
“It’s been a tough year. But one thought pulled me through – Kamala Harris as vice-president,” Waters says. “From her intelligence, experience and demeanor, all the way down to her Chuck Taylors, she embodies what this country yearns for. As the first mixed-race woman to reach this position, I wanted to capture her in all her colorful glory, and to reflect the joy I feel knowing she will soon be Madam Freaking Vice President.”
In a difficult year, Mize has had personal things to celebrate – a new home with his partner, the impetus for his own piece for Something 2020. They also opened a restaurant just as the pandemic began. Uptown Eats, at 689-D Dr. MLK Jr. St. N., is right next door to the gallery, and will be the site of the first Uptown Market featuring outdoor art vending beginning on December 5 at 9 a.m.
Despite a busy schedule, Mize is already making plans for 2021 that include curated shows, four shows by individual artists throughout the year – and, of course, the themed exhibits. The first show is Jabari Reed’s Ego Death: New Works by iBOMS on January 8.
Mize says focusing on the shows has been healthy for him during this year.
“As artists, many of us spend time alone. For me, it’s not a big deal. Most artists have to be alone to create their art,” he said. “I’m thankful to all 287 artists that created new works for Mize Gallery exhibits in 2020. What a year to have art on our side to get us through.”
The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. or by appointment.
For more, visit chadmize.com.