“I don’t know if I have
a style that is set
in a specific movement,
but I can say that it’s
quasi-abstract and
expressionist, if you want
to call it something,”

David Acevedo
art & community

by Cindy-jo Dietz

THE ALLIANCE FOR THE ARTS, located off McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers, hosts a variety of events and exhibitions in its main building as well as being home to a number of art studios in the Edwards building toward the rear of the campus.

I find myself ascending the stairwell in the building, making my way toward finding the artist David Acevedo. At first, I enter the wrong door. Apparently, I found David’s personal studio and gallery, but not the location of where he spends most of his time, The Union Artist Studios, which is conveniently located across the hall. After giving a call out a few times and realizing nobody was in, I made my way across the hall and found David in a back room comfortably behind a large table, working.

Puerto Rican born, David graduated in 1998 from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, and made his way here to Southwest Florida after being offered employment in 2000.

David opened his first gallery in downtown Fort Myers in 2007, which eventually became daas Gallery. David is also one of the co-founders of the Fort Myers Art Walk and served on its committee until 2012.

As an artist, David’s work has been on exhibition in the United States, Europe and Asia, but Fort Myers is where he calls home.

I asked him to describe what it is he does. “I don’t know if I have a style that is set in a specific movement, but I can say that it’s quasi-abstract and expressionist, if you want to call it something,” he explains, “but I never even think about it when I produce my work.” People tend to also describe it as expressionist with a little bit of pop art combined, sometimes surrealistic. “It’s just a mix depending on how I’m feeling” he says.
Currently, David is working on a series that will break away from his normal and will be based around portraits, faces and facial expressions. The portraits will not be of anyone specifically, but just what pops into his mind.

He intends to create at least 30 pieces in this series, affording him the option of picking and choosing his favorites to exhibit. Normally, around 25 pieces are chosen for a show. He feels that number really brings an exhibition together.

I asked for more detailed hints as to what we can expect from the current series. What are the pieces looking like so far? He tells me they will keep that vibrant use of color that he is known for, but the theme and subject is totally different. “You can still see me in the painting,” he assures me. “Sometimes, when you do abstract expressionist work for a long time, people seem to think that’s all you can do from a technical aspect of painting.” He continues, “ I still want to have my signature on them, but still keep the technicality to the work.”

I was lucky enough to view one of the pieces he was in the middle of working on. It definitely has that Acevedo color and vibrancy like always, but with a very stoic look on the subject’s face and geometric, decorative textures. Very interesting.

I asked what was the inspiration for him to move into portraits? “It’s one of those things that sort of come and go,” he said. “One day, I finished an ‘Intuitive Praxis’ exhibition, which closed in May at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. I had worked on the same thing for so long, like a year and a half working on the same old paintings. I opened a new canvas and I just randomly started creating a face. I remembered back to my technical training from college, the basics, from out of the books. I had to go back because I hadn’t been doing that kind of work for such a long time. The first one was a good painting. It sold right away. Then I was just like, ‘maybe I should do a series.’ It just went from there and it progressed from that point.”

In 2012, David co-founded Union Artist Studios, where you can find a variety of artists sharing space. “Union Artist Studios is a labor of love,” he says, “It’s not a co-op, but like a co-op space if you think about it.” He adds, “Technically, it’s not a gallery, it is working studios. I rented this space from the Alliance. I figured I could have artists with me here sharing the wealth. So, it became a project that I administer in my free time.”

“Everybody here helps pay the rent and they do what they want with their space. The benefits from being in a common studio like this is we feed off each other. Jeffrey Scott Lewis, another artist who works here in the studio, will come in here and talk to me a little bit about what I’m doing, a little bit of this and that, and that gives me inspiration. The same thing I do to him, or I go to Diana Ripoll or Mark Holman. All the artists in the space share that whole inspiration thing.”

I asked about how The Union Artist Studios chooses who shares the space? David explains, “At first I did it on my own. I had no choice because I was the only one here. Paul Rodino, another managing artist here, would help throw ideas out when selecting artists. After that it’s become more of a juried process, so it’s fair. Everybody in the studio puts in their input to see if that person should be in or not. We do it as a collective.”

I asked about the turnover of artists through Union? “Not that often because once the artist is in the space, they tend to like it and stay here, he says. “I think it’s been a year and a half since the last artist traded out. We immediately filled up the space.”

The Alliance for the Arts’ annual Artists Studio Tour on February 27 begins on the Alliance campus in the Edwards building with The Union Artist Studio and VEMA. He tells me, “We get our studios ready, all nice and neat to welcome the people doing the tour.”

The Union Artist Studio also holds classes. “We do Wine & Art nights, usually the first Saturday of the month. I’ve been grateful to have such a response to it,” he says. “We do it right here in the studio. We move everything around and set up the space so that we can hold a group of about 15. It’s a follow-along class, mostly. I teach some technique. It’s just a lot of fun.”

He adds, “I also do private classes where I have students come in and take instruction from me individually. I teach at the Alliance for the Arts, too.” Union Artist Studio also offers a photography class.

As I said earlier, I originally walked into another studio across the hall belonging to David. I asked what the benefits were of having the extra space. Laughing, he explains, “I don’t mean to be greedy. The thing is I only have space for so many paintings. I had a storage unit in Cape Coral, but it wasn’t suitable. If I was here and I wanted to show you something as a client, I would have to schedule another time for you to come and see it. So having that space allows me to have a quasi-storage and exhibition area to change it up every once in a while. He adds, “Plus, I have a meeting space not as cluttered as my studio.”

What’s next for David? He tells me, “I’m looking for more gallery representation, even outside of Florida. I recently had a chance to show in Hong Kong for the ‘Worlds Collide Collaborative Exhibition,’ which was a big deal for me. I’m currently in negotiation with the owner of that space. iIt’s actually not a gallery, but a very cool store which houses a variety of hand made work and many beautiful items. I’m hoping for a permanent presence there. It’s called the 22 Degrees North Concept Store. It was a great experience.“

“I’m submitting a lot of applications right now. Typically, I’m not one to put in for a lot of juried shows for some reason. I’m just really strange like that. I’ve been a juror in a lot of shows, so I know from experience that the painting or the piece could be great but its just not something fitting with that particular show. I’m trying to get a little more involved.”

The last thing we discussed was Art Walk, which David helped launch. He believes that Art Walk has been a great incentive to get people out and downtown, the battery behind things that are happening right now along with the redevelopment of the area that hosts Art Walk.

David is very proud of how Art Walk and proud to be a part of the Alliance for the Arts. “I’m just happy to be a Fort Myers resident,” he admits, “I do feel that this area has a strange kind of vibe to it. Artists just find each other here. This area hasn’t been exploited yet and there are a lot of artists. I believe in unity and supporting each other. I just want people to see it and realize that if you support the arts more and more, we could be a big deal.” •

January-February 2016