Funky as a Monkey are helper monkeys in the Tampa — and St. Petersburg — visual art scene

Fall Arts 2018: Funky as a Monkey is the traveling gallery for artists without an agent.

Funky as a Monkey has four shows planned for this fall

1. Under the Sign of Leo

Running Aug. 17-Oct. 5 at Hidden Spring Ale Works, this exhibit features work from 10 Tampa Bay area artists. Two of these artists, Remmick Wadsworth and Ashley Morra, are relatively new on the scene. Prior to this, Wadsworth’s work had only been shown at Aristas Café, inside Mercedes Benz of Tampa, where he works. In 2017, the Tampa Bay Times called Wadsworth the “barista with autism” who draws dragons, robots and sea monsters on the back of customer receipts. Ashley Morra, on Instagram as @righteousreflections, does ocean-themed artwork, painting sea creatures on canvas, trays and hats.

2. Paula Jo and Timothy O,

Up at Pinellas Ale Works Aug. 24-Oct. 12, this exhibit features artwork from Paula Jo and Timothy O’Brien. They’ve both been shown before, but they were very new when they first started. “They were regulars at PAW, and we’re friends with Dennis, the owner, so it kind of evolved through that,” says Lisbeth. Tim’s a photographer and Paula is a painter that likes to experiment with different media.

3. Gulfport Under the Stars

For one day only — on Oct. 13 from 2-10 p.m. — Tim Gibbons and Jayne Lisbeth indulge their love of fundraisers. This one  an art show at Gulfport Under the Stars benefits the Gulfport Historical Society.

4. The Holiday Show is scheduled for Dec. 7 at Pinellas Ale Works.

click to enlarge Hidden Springs Ale Works during opening reception for Under the Sign of Leo. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Hidden Springs Ale Works during opening reception for Under the Sign of Leo.

Seven years ago, Tim Gibbons and Jayne Lisbeth sensed a gap in the Tampa Bay arts scene.

New artists had very few places to show their work in the area. Galleries are notoriously hard to break into, and the large, established museums were often not interested.

“There’s just not enough places," says Gibbons. “If you’re in St. Pete, then of course you have Central and also the art district. But it’s just hard for local artists to show their artwork places. The Tampa Museum of Art shows us no respect, so we have to find our own place to try to get the art out to the public. There’s a lot of artists out there wanting to show their art — good artists that aren’t being recognized here in Tampa.”

If you’re lucky enough to attract a gallery’s attention, you are soon saddled with a 40-60 percent commission on sales of your artwork. Many artists raise the price of their artwork to adjust for this, but that can lead to decreased sales.

click to enlarge DeathMask Pufferfish by Remmick Wadsworth - Remmick Wadsworth; photograph courtesy of Funky as a Monkey
Remmick Wadsworth; photograph courtesy of Funky as a Monkey
DeathMask Pufferfish by Remmick Wadsworth

Besides, “people just don’t go to galleries as much, or even to museums,” says Gibbons, “more people go out to eat than go to galleries.”

So about seven years ago, Gibbons answered an ad in the paper advertising “a place to show your work in restaurants.” The place was Tampa’s Bamboozle Café, and Gibbons was soon running the show.

They accumulated about six or seven other places, and were soon helping local artists show their artwork in area bars and restaurants. This was the beginning of Funky as a Monkey as we know it.

They have since narrowed their venues to two breweries: Hidden Springs Ale Works in Tampa and Pinellas Ale Works in St. Petersburg.

For the past seven years, they’ve been rotating the artwork at Hidden Springs and PAW every six to eight weeks. They don’t charge a commission and they encourage artists to keep their prices reasonable so they will sell more. The model appears to be working quite well: Artists can sell between four and six pieces per show, says Gibbons, and there are always more artists waiting in the wings.

click to enlarge Arielle Katarina's beer can designs - Arielle Katarina; photograph by Jennifer Ring
Arielle Katarina; photograph by Jennifer Ring
Arielle Katarina's beer can designs

“We almost always have one new artist at each Hidden Springs and PAW show,” says Lisbeth, who recruits the artists. Lisbeth says she finds new artists via word of mouth, fliers and social media. And Gibbons meets a lot of new artists through the art classes he’s taught at Hyde Park Art Studio, the Jewish Community Center’s Golding Art Studio and Tampa’s Life Enrichment Center.

For a nominal fee, Gibbons and Lisbeth help the artists display their work at one of their venues. Gibbons puts up the shows and makes them look good. Lisbeth does all the marketing and PR.

“We are really passionate about supporting the arts,” says Lisbeth. “The hardest thing — new artists are generally pretty timid, and they need a lot of instruction too. So we don’t just supply the place. We tell them how to make their tags and how to wire their art, and I do all the PR and the marketing for every show. Then I send that along to them and ask them to send that to their media outlets as well. We do — maybe I should call it brush-holding. We do a lot of hand-holding with the artists, especially the newer ones. A lot of them know what they’re doing, but the newer ones — they really need help, and they’re so grateful for it. We’ve had students from UT. We’ve had teen students and had shows with them, and two of them had their first sales ever, and there’s nothing more thrilling — not only to have their art on the wall, but to have somebody come in and buy it.”

Gibbons estimates they’ve helped about 80-90 artists get their start over the past seven years. Many have since become active participants in our local art scene.

Ashley Cassens, a Funky as a Monkey-supported figure painter based in Tampa, has exhibited her work at the ARC Gallery in Chicago, The Cornell Museum in Delray Beach, the Box Gallery in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Arielle Katarina went from showing her work at Funky as a Monkey shows to designing all the labels and beer cans for Hidden Springs.

 Macy Higgins is now showing her artwork as a member of Fringe Creatives Tampa Artist Collective. She will be independently curating the very first Tampa Bay Coffee & Art Festival gallery October 6th at The Noise Box in Brandon. Gibbons and Lisbeth recently chose her to curate the artwork at Bamboozle Café, where this story began.

 “People have gone into all different kinds of areas, and have been successful,” says Lisbeth, “It’s so encouraging.” 

About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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