The small white-and-blue building with the faded mural, sitting between the small and large dog park in Gulfport’s Chase Park, has sat empty since early 2020.
Soon, it’ll be Gulfport’s place for clay, art classes, theater, and all things art: The Gulfport Arts Center.
The Gulfport Historical Society assumed the lease from Abstract Art for Autism before the pandemic. The City of Gulfport owns the building, just a field across from the Gulfport History Museum.
On April 12, the board of the Gulfport Historical Society approved plans to make the concept a reality.
Art for All
The board compares the center’s future to something like St. Pete Beach’s Suntan Arts Center. The vision includes a small shop selling local work, classes, and art exhibits.
“It’s exciting because this will bring a new opportunity for local artists to show their work and teach classes,” Gulfport Historical Society operations manager Mel Zodda said. “It will be a lesser expense than showing in a gallery.”
The center will also have space for kids.
“We have a lot of focus on arts in Gulfport, but not a lot of focus for kids,” Cathy Salustri Loper, President, said. “As an artistic community, there should be something accessible and affordable for them.”
The board’s in the process of voting on combined membership rates that include GHS and GAC. One item on the proposed new rates includes allowing Gulfport residents under 18 to pay member rates.
To open, the GAC needs a steering committee to get it there.
“We’re looking for people in Gulfport who are interested in shaping a community arts center,” Loper said. “They are going to make the board’s vision a reality.”
The team doesn’t need to be artists, but they must be committed to the community, she says.
Interested applicants should email GHS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City rents the Gulfport Arts Center building [2726 54th St. S.] to GHS for $1, as they do other charities leasing space. It also places conditions on the rent, most notably that the center must provide free admission, excluding ticketed events. Because of this, 501(c)(3) will make its money from art sales, classes, monthly exhibits, and event ticket sales.
Zodda says the building needs a bit of work. The City helped with initial repairs, but there’s need for a fresh coat of paint, a new mural, and a general revamp.
“What we’re looking for is funding so we can do those things,” Zodda added. “We’re also in the process of getting estimates.”
The GAC seeks donations to get off the ground and, with the help of a strong steering committee, hopes to announce a grand reopening date soon.
Full disclosure: The Salustri/Loper family also owns The Gabber Newspaper.