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TMCNet:  Last chance to buy from Ybor's Brad Cooper Gallery Arts

[February 14, 2013]

Last chance to buy from Ybor's Brad Cooper Gallery Arts

Feb 14, 2013 (Tampa Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Saturday is the last time you will be able to walk into Brad Cooper Gallery in Ybor City. From noon to 7 p.m. art will be sold at discount prices -- some up to 50 percent off. After that the doors will close permanently.

For the past 28 years, Brad Cooper Gallery has been known for having exceptional exhibits of contemporary art by international and local artists.

Its closing will leave a void in Tampa's art community. It was at Brad Cooper Gallery that I met such international American artists as Yvonne Petkus and William Pachner, and Russian artist Peter Mitchev. And it's where I first heard of the tiny Greek island called "Naxos." That's where owner Brad Cooper and his wife, Elizabeth, will head after the closing.

"This will be our fifth season in Naxos," Brad said in a telephone interview. "We open there from Easter through the beginning of October. That's the season for the Europeans to go on vacation and the weather is very nice there." The couple owns a shop there where Elizabeth sells her handcrafted jewelry and Brad sells "a little art" to their mostly European customers.

For those who know owner Brad Cooper, the decision to close is not a sudden one.

"We've been kind of planning this for a while, but you have to do it one step at a time," he said, "We feel we've reached a certain limit of what we can achieve here, and we want to pursue other creative paths." Cooper will take a lot of good memories with him.

"I think we did a lot of exciting exhibitions over the years," he said. "We did drawing exhibitions before anybody in the city showed drawings. We had international juried shows and brought artists from other parts of the country and included local artists in the exhibit to show that artists here are just as good as the international ones. It was good to create something that wasn't here before and offer it to the community. ... And meeting so many great artists has been a good experience." But he found that the art scene in Ybor changed dramatically through the years.

"When we first opened here, we would pull in over 1,000 people at an opening. Now we get maybe 50 people," he said.

Cooper always has championed the idea of making Ybor City the arts district for Tampa, an idea that never really got off the ground.

"It was difficult to get the cooperation needed from the cultural institutions and from the city for a sustainable arts community in Ybor," Cooper said. "I don't know if it was the density of the population or what, but it never seemed to gel. I often felt that we were in competition rather than collaboration with the other institutions." The bars didn't help, he added.

"When there's an adverse impact from a nightclub on the store next door, that store will leave," he said. Cooper was able to stay because he owned his building.

"And because we are located in the center of the national historic district. Everyone who comes here will pass by your door. So all you have to do is have something they will want to buy." For better or worse, most of his clients were Europeans or Americans from other cities.

"The collector base in Tampa didn't really develop," he said. "That's because there wasn't a real interface between the galleries and the cultural institutions." Though his location changed during his 28 years of business -- Cooper first opened in 1984 on South Howard Avenue; he moved to the current Ybor location in 1990 -- his philosophy about art did not.

"It's the expression of the artist's experience," he explained. "Through art, we develop consciousness. The work in the gallery was work that wasn't necessarily popular at the time, but it was always oriented toward the human condition." Once in Naxos, Brad and Elizabeth look forward to being surrounded by ancient architectural wonders in a great climate while developing their individual artistic talents -- hers in jewelry and his in painting.

"And we want to relax more," Cooper said. "If you come to Greece, you'll see why." They will continue to spend winters in Tampa, and Cooper also will keep up his web site, where he will sell works by a selection of artists who have a good history of collaboration with the gallery. The gallery is at 1714 E. 7th Ave. in Ybor City.

Go to www.bradcoopergallery.com to see previous exhibits and current art holdings.

___ (c)2013 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) Visit the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) at www.tampatrib.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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