Actually, Clearwater is northwest of where I live, but Horace Greeley did not say "Go NORTHwest," so there you have it. A few weeks ago, I was casting about for birthday gift ideas for my sweetie's birthday. What would really knock his socks off and surprise him? Aha! A piece of artwork; but not just any artwork, something by one of his favorite Western artists, like McCarthy, Doolittle, Bama or Terpning.
We used to collect Western art, but that fell by the wayside during a 10-year sojourn in the Pacific. About a decade ago, Western-themed art was hot but at least in Florida, it is hot no more. I was crestfallen to see that Western art was scarce as hen's teeth in Tampa Bay, until a local gallery owner here in St. Petersburg (thanks, Susanne's Gallery & Frame Designs!) told me about The Plainsmen in Clearwater.
It took a bit of doing to get there (they are only open on Saturdays in August, and the first day I went, they were closed for parking lot resurfacing) but the trouble was worth it. This is a little jewel of a gallery, with a small but discerning selection of art prints including signed and numbered editions, sculptures, originals and the latest -- and most controversial -- in art genres, giclee prints, which are made from digital scans of the original, and ink is printed onto canvas, etc. (the collectibility of giclees is controversial; the prices are steep as well, but if you like the artist, it looks like an original but certainly isn't as pricey as the original).
Most of the pieces are by well-known artists, and most are in the Western genre. We got a lovely Terpning s/n print and couldn't be more pleased. They also carry a well-chosen selection of Florida art, mostly nature scenes, and I intend to purchase some of those as well.
The owners clearly love art, and I was charmed to see that when I was there, they were dithering over just the right matting composition for a customer's print. Yes, they also arrange matting and framing -- I will update you on that after we go there again since we have the Terpning we bought there plus another McCarthy print that I got last week that need to be framed. I think they will look capital next to the prints of hula dancers we collected over the last 10 years (it's OUR house, after all -- and, as one of the gallery owners pointed out to me with a grin, they do have cowboys in Hawaii: the paniolo).
I suppose that I could've looked in some of the generic "frame art" galleries in St. Petersburg and found something acceptable amongst the sad clowns and NASCAR prints (nothing against anyone who likes that, we just don't), but I'm very glad that I took the time and trouble to find something exceptional. If you feel the same way about art and about supporting local small businesses, take some time to stop by The Plainsmen. They are open during the week now, and the owners are very helpful but not intrusive while you browse. The gallery is located just off US 19 on Sunset Point Road; stop in and find a piece of art to enjoy for years to come!