Seven questions: Tim Gibbons

After 28 years at the Hyde Park Art Studio, Tim Gibbons will retire so he has more time to bring in the Funk.

click to enlarge TimGibbons - Marie Schadt
Marie Schadt

We want the funk.

Funky As A Monkey, that is. 

Every time I see a press announcement come from Tim Gibbons, who, along with his life and business partner Jayne Lisbeth, operate Funky As A Monkey Art Studio, this is what goes through my head:

Yep. But that's not actually what they do at all, and to make it more confusing, despite their name, they're not actually an art studio; they're more of a traveling gallery.  We asked Tim Gibbons to explain himself (and his funk), which he did — gladly. 

What exactly is Funky as a Monkey?

Funky As A Monkey is a dance I did with my daughter when she had a stuffed monkey. We did the Funky As A Monkey dance together, which made her laugh.

What gave you the idea for Funky As A Monkey?

In 1998 Jayne and I were looking for a place to have an art school, and a place where I could sell my vintage records, comics and toy collections, and Jayne could sell her vintage clothing, jewelry, antiques, collectibles and books. We were looking for the perfect spot and found Frantiques on Waters Ave. We purchased the building, which was Fran Watts' Antique Wicker shop. Fran was our mentor and became our dearest friend. Best of all, there was an apartment where I could live (Jayne and I weren't married yet) which made commuting to work much easier! We needed a name that would reflect our artistic personalities, and Funky As A Monkey fit.  Since then we've kept the name as it reflects who we are. We sold the shop in 2001.

How do you find your artists?

We find our artists wherever we can. When I say "we"  I'm referring to Jayne, the writer in our family, who is an integral part of Funky As A Monkey. We are partners in our business and life. Jayne is constantly on Instagram and Facebook looking for artists, who she then contacts. We go to shows and collect cards from artists and contact them. We also find artists at library shows. We put out Calls to Artists on the internet, our Facebook page and Instagram. Wherever we exhibit artists we put up flyers asking artists, if they're interested in exhibiting, to contact us. We talk to artists who visit our opening receptions at Hidden Springs and Pinellas Ale Works, and at any shows we visit. We meet a lot of artists at social gatherings. When I was recently volunteering at the state fair I viewed art and picked up artists' cards there. We are always on the lookout for new local artists. Many times artists contact us. A good way to get the word out to artists is through Creative Loafing.

What does the payment arrangement with each artist look like — do you take a standard gallery commission? 

We do not charge commissions. We charge a flat nominal fee. We find this is more cost effective and convenient for us and the artists. In exchange for their fee we do all the marketing, PR, installation of the art, coordination with the artists and the exhibiting gallery, and removal of the art prior to installation of the next exhibit. Our sales are doing very well at the galleries we curate, and it helps that the artist does not have to pay us a commission to sell their art. We find that when commissions are charged to the artist, they raise their prices to cover the costs of the commission, which then can prevent their art from being sold. We emphasize to our artists that if they want to sell, they should keep their prices reasonable. We feel this contributes to the amount of sales our artists have enjoyed. We've been showing art in public places for five years as Funky As A Monkey Art Studio.  Exhibiting and promoting local artists gives us so much pleasure and enjoyment when local artists have sales.

Why would an artist choose to exhibit their work with Funky As A Monkey?

First of all, we offer a place for artists to exhibit in public places so the public can see the art every day, grow with it, understand it, come to love it and want the art in their home. Art in restaurants and microbreweries brings in a clientele where going to an art gallery or a museum might not be top on their list of things to do. In restaurants and microbreweries they can enjoy the art while enjoying a meal or a craft brew. Art needs to be accessible in exciting places, which are public places to be enjoyed by everyone. At our openings, like at last night's opening at Hidden Springs, people say, "I don't know anything about art, so I'd never go to a museum or gallery. What is this about?"

The art is much more approachable when the space is not intimidating as a gallery or museum can be. At each exhibit we show many different art styles. The exhibiting artists have great conversations explaining their art to different clientele. Artists also appreciate all the work we do  in promotion and marketing and in helping new, and experienced artists. This makes exhibiting much easier for the artist. At an opening, people can meet the artists and talk to them about their art, which breaks down a barrier between art that's just on the wall and knowing that there is a person behind the art. This makes a person more likely to want to hang art in their home, and to have art a part of their life.

What are your future plans for Funky As A Monkey as far as expansion or perhaps finding a space all your own?

Funky As A Monkey is very comfortable where it is right now, where Jayne does all work on a laptop in our kitchen. The hardest problem about having your own space is you have to be there everyday. That's one of the reasons we closed our shop. Whether one person comes in, or a hundred come in, we had to be open and we had to be there. It's much easier to work out of our home, rather than leave home to promote or create art. We've recently turned over two of our restaurant venues to a young, talented young woman artist to curate those galleries, Macy Higgins. Macy brings fresh outlook and ideas to the restaurant venues she is curating. We will continue to curate our two venues until it's not fun anymore. Right now, we're having too much fun to stop.

Do you make your living from Funky As A Monkey of do you, like so many artists (and you’re an artist in your own right) have a day job?

No, we wish we could make a living from Funky As A Monkey Art Studio. I take that back, because I do have another job that I love. I've been teaching art since 1974 when I began at the Jewish Community Center on Horatio as a preschool teacher. Interestingly, I'm now retiring from the Golding Art Studio at the new JCC on Howard Avenue. I taught for 28 years at the Hyde Park Art Studio, from which I'm retiring March 1. I'm going into my 20th year at Life Enrichment Center [in Tampa], which is like a family to me. I have way too much fun there, and I feel teaching there is a gift, not a job and too important for me to retire from. It's  a wonderful place for me to work. The LEC Director, Maureen Murphy, and Assistant Director Kelly Hickman are very positive forces in the art scene and promote art in every way possible. The students are like family, and are wonderful artists. They pursue art with a joy and happiness that will always keep me there. I also have an after-school class which is fun, as I still love working with kids. Having these positions gives me much more time to pursue my love and happiness producing art. I wake up most mornings and draw and paint all day, and there's nothing quite like it or makes me happier.