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GULFPORT, FL: Seven larger-than-life geckos will be the centerpiece of a live auction to benefit local charities. The geckos will be visualized and created according to each artist’s individual concept. All seven geckos can be seen for the first time at the Third Annual Art Gecko Show during an opening reception on Friday, August 4th at the Catherine Hickman Theater (5501 27th Avenue South) from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The show will also feature selections from the participating artist’s regular body of work in a variety of media. The reception is free and open to the public and will also include complimentary hors d’oeuvre and a cash bar. The selection of artists’ other work will continue to be displayed through the month of August, but following the reception, the geckos themselves will be moved to preview locations in venues throughout Gulfport’s Waterfront village. The geckos will then go up for auction at the Ninth Annual Gecko Ball on Saturday, August 26th at the historic Gulfport Casino Ballroom.
Each gecko will be a prized collector’s art work and join the ranks of nearly 70 other geckos that have been created since the inception of the Gecko Ball. Organizers initiated the Artists’ Gecko Auction eight years ago with much success and the auction is now a popular part of the tradition of annual Gulfport Gecko-related activities in late summer. The Art Gecko Show was conceived in 2015 to highlight and show appreciation for the participating artists.
Artists selected to create geckos for this year’s auction are Joan Allen, Eric Folsom, Brenda McMahon, Lenne Nicklaus-Ball, Owen Pach, Tom Pitzen and Monika Watson. Following the opening reception, the seven geckos will be moved and displayed at various public locations in Gulfport to be announced during the reception.
The annual Gecko Ball has become known as Gulfport’s party of the year! This year’s theme is “Geckostock,” celebrating all things 1960s, including hippies, pop culture figures, trends and fads, and of course the famed 1969 Woodstock Festival. Costumes, décor and scenery will transport Ball-goers into a mod/psychedelic other world. In addition to the live auction of the artist’s geckos, the event includes dozens of silent auction items, costume contests, annual coronation of the Gecko Queen, catered tapas, cash bar, live music by the Throwback Band, dancing and more. The Gecko Ball will be held at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom (5500 Shore Blvd.). Tickets are $35 each and are available in advance beginning July 4th at Gulfport Beach Bazaar (3115 Beach Blvd.), Gulfport Welcome Center (3101 Beach Blvd.) or online with a credit or debit card at VisitGulfportFlorida.com. A portion of proceeds from Gecko Ball, as well as Gulfport’s Gecko Pub Crawl (August 12th) and GeckoFest (September 2nd) will fund a learning garden at Creative Play Preschool, and medical expenses for women not covered by insurance through the Sonia Plotnick Health Fund.
Artists from Gulfport or with ties to Gulfport have volunteered their time and talent to create a gecko for this year’s auction.
Joan Allen has lived in Gulfport since 2002. She has acquired a varied resume in locations around the country, including rural stay-at-home mom, graphic artist, envelope-stuffer, coffee shop proprietor and historic hotel manager. She is also self-taught in the craft of quilting. After discovering oven-cured clay, she eventually combined this with her talent for needle and fabric work to develop a line of highly imaginative “art dolls,” made with detailed clay appendages, bodies of assorted fabrics, and inventive hair and accessories. She has created a wide variety of the dolls over the years and they have been extensively collected. She also works in the medium of encaustic painting.
A long-time resident and native of Gulfport, Eric Folsom moved from the area in the 1970s to pursue his study of art, becoming an apprentice to George Anderson in Sperryville, Virginia. He became proficient in the techniques of brazing and fabrication of bronze and copper into jewelry and sculptural forms. He has pursued his craft for over 40 years. His work is available locally at Domain & Gallery and Florida CraftArt.
Gulfport resident Brenda McMahon has worked as a professional clay artist for over 20 years. Born, raised and educated in New York, she actually came to draw much of her inspiration from the natural beauty of sea and shore. She sells her work at art shows around the country, including St. Petersburg’s Mainsail Art Festival, earning many honors and awards, and teaches workshops nationally and internationally. She is also an accomplished yogi, and combines her love of nature, clay and yoga as much as possible.
Participating as one of the “gecko artists” for the past four years, Lenne Nicklaus-Ball has exhibited in mixed media, three dimensional assemblages and neon abstracts are displayed in many public and private collections on three continents. In addition to work on several commissions for corporate offices, she is one of few artists who have sold giclée limited prints on HSN. She has had over nine museum and art center exhibits, and several public art installations in the last decade.
Owen Pach was an established woodworking artist at the age of 30 in Ybor City when he discovered his passion for glass art. His work is included in numerous private and public art collections, including public installations in Gulfport, and he has inspired many of his students over the years to pursue their own glass passions. He originated the gecko art auction event in 2010. In addition to blown glass, he also works extensively in metal, stone and wood.
Tom Pitzen was educated in art and design and went on to open a custom wood shop in Ohio, offering custom cabinetry, furniture and displays. Many of his pieces for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio travelled with exhibits throughout North America. He and his family now live and work in Gulfport. His large-scale public art installations in Gulfport, incorporating mosaics and mixed media, have become familiar sights throughout the City, including the entrance to Gulfport’s Waterfront District and the Gulfport Neighborhood Center. His art studio is in Gulfport’s Alley of the Arts.
Gulfport resident Monika Watson was born in Austria and moved to Paris in her twenties to study art and work as a commercial artist. Her unique style involves hand-made jewel-like clay pieces applied to her painted backgrounds, forming combinations of texture and color that depict seascapes, birds, villages and other scenes. Her work has been collected extensively by patrons from around the world.
All Gecko events are sponsored by the non-profit Gulfport Merchants Association and a portion of proceeds benefits one or more local charities each year. For more information on the Gecko Ball go to www.visitgulfportflorida.com, www.geckofest.com or www.facebook.com/geckoball, or contact John Haugen at email@example.com.