When Derek Gores owned his art studio on West Eau Gallie Boulevard from 2014 to 2018, he remembers creating collages by day, pushing objects aside so Not Quite Right Improv could come in at night and “sweep” the place for first Fridays. and gallery exhibitions.
Now, Gores and his wife, Cassandra Wyzik, plan to transform a three-storey apartment building into an eclectic, multi-theme “mini art center” on Highland Avenue in the heart of the downtown Eau Gallie shopping district.
This is the building that houses Ralph’s Art Supply. The owner, longtime merchant Ralph Sanders, is retiring – and passing the proverbial torch – and selling the structure after a 28-year run. Gores hopes to complete the purchase on September 21.
“It’s my first foray into that kind of world,” Gores said.
Gores’ colorful game plan:
- He will work with Sanders distributors and continue to sell art supplies inside the store at 1420 Highland Ave. Gores will also create a new “nostalgic general store vibe” and add locally inspired retail products.
- A future complementary tenant will replace Art Abilities, a glass pottery studio in the southernmost storefront.
- Gores will open his gallery and art studio inside the center storefront, which previously housed Causeway Records. He plans to host evening creative classes led by guest artists.
“It’s an area that the Foosaner (art museum) could have tapped into. There’s a whole network. There’s people traveling to take classes. So we’re aiming to have a strong program guest teachers in many art forms,” said Gores.
“I want my place to be a place of discovery, where you can come learn, get your hands dirty and have an experience. Something fresh for the mind all the time,” he said.
Built in 1955, the building houses 4,884 square feet of floor space. Gores did not disclose the purchase price, saying the sale remains pending.
Gores is an innovative New Contemporary Movement collage artist whose clients range from the NFL and ESPN to Lenny Kravitz and Van Halen to Heineken and Prada.
In 2017, Gores designed the cover of Playboy for the magazine’s 120-page special edition featuring founder Hugh Hefner. In December, Porsche asked him to create the company’s art installation car exhibit at Art Basel Miami.
Gores exhibited in December at the SCOPE Art Show in Miami Beach, and he hosted a solo exhibition in February at Galley 14 in Vero Beach. Today, he estimates that about ⅓ of his income comes from local art sales, ⅓ comes from out-of-town exhibitions, and ⅓ comes from commissions.
Since 2018, Gores has been working from his “semi-secret studio” in a plaza on Cypress Avenue on the west side of US 1.
Gores and Sanders played a major role in the revitalization of the Eau Gallie arts district, which emerged around 2000 as a brand catalyst to replace blight with creative economic development. In fact, Gores said Sanders had been referred to as “the mayor of Eau Gallie.”
Gores is the former chairman of the board of directors of EGAD, while Sanders is the former chairman of the advisory board of the Eau Gallie Community Redevelopment Agency. In this capacity, Sanders helped guide the 2002-2007 transformation of a weedy wasteland into Eau Gallie Square, an urban park featuring a bandshell.
Sanders’ store was previously called Art Supply of Melbourne. Now 70, he said he plans to retire by traveling – “something I’ve held onto for 30 years”.
When Sanders moved in in the 1990s, he said Eau Gallie already had an artistic environment: second-hand bookstore Eau Gallie; Fiddler’s Dream Violin Room; Kevin Roberts’ Intimate Images photography studio; the Horn Section musical instrument store; Harvest Community Natural Food Market.
Zoning regulations and the Great Recession slowed EGAD’s development for years, but Sanders and Gores said the community is now thriving.
“What we were missing, and what’s starting to come now, is that we never really had a restaurant. We never had a place to go to drink. Or to go meet. We didn’t have no park back then,” Sanders said.
Gores produced the Dreamland Miniature Golf & More pop-up art installation inside the closed Foosaner Art Museum, which offered an array of activities from April to June. With the purchase of the building, he said he planned to build on the history of Ralph’s Art Supply and the surrounding art-centric district of Eau Gallie as a whole.
“For me, we were successful when we opened our eyes to what creativity includes. Once we did, we set our sights on a cool cafe (Anaya). That’s their art” , said Gores.
“Intra – I mean they made about 700 different beers,” he said., referring to Intracoastal Brewing Co., which opened in 2013. “They could probably make it five and be thrilled and make money, but they keep going with their creativity. That’s their art.” he said.
“We have Standard Collective around the corner, and their nods in all different art forms, like fashion. We have architects in the neighborhood and hair salons. Once you string that together like a story, you realize it’s kind of this slice of urban culture from store to store,” he said.