Art Lounge “Share” Creates Connections

What do major art-focused cities around the world have in common with Leesburg, Florida? The answer is monthly Art Share Events. Creative hubs in the USA, Europe and South America all have art share events where artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, actors and writers gather to present their work in front of supportive peers. During these LIVE sharing events not only do the presenters have the spotlight, the spectators also mingle between the acts. These gatherings of creatives organically produce networking and idea exchanges. Business cards are passed and future collaborations begin to perk, not to mention the promising new gig, festival or gallery reference.

The Leesburg Center for the Arts on Magnolia & 5th began hosting ART LOUNGE - SHARE each third Wednesday evening back in August 2018 when program coordinator, Patt Gilmore came on board. Gilmore hosted an active share group outside of Boston in the early 2000's and then later, while living in Buenos Aires, Argentina she was involved in several international writers groups and an art share event called Art Exchange. AE began with 10 people sharing their artistic work in the living room of a photographer's home. It has since grown enormously expanding into a commercial space with a standing-room-only attendance. Leesburg's ART LOUNGE is following suit. The CFA's stage has hosted everything from short films, Native American flute mixes, clean comedy, photographic projects, book chapter readings, poetry, campfire sing-a-longs, jam sessions and hip hop dance.

On AL SHARE nights the center is set up as a low lit urban lounge with covered round tables and the odd comfy chair. A creative project is provided if people wish to zentangle, make origami or blot doodle while watching the "show." There's a fully equipped sound system and a large projection screen for visual arts. Similar to an Open Mic night but much bigger in artistic scope and medium, ART LOUNGE - SHARE allows for 10 - 15 minute presentations with a whiteboard time-slot sign in. At 6:30 the house lights come down and the sharing begins.

Amateurs and professionals come to the monthly event to practice their new acts, re-live old ones, present book projects, connect with others, get inspired and just have fun! At the premiere of ART LOUNGE Ed Sloan, budding comedian and musician spoke from the stage, "This is the first time that I ever got up in front of people at an open mic." He noted that at 60 years of age..."We are in the final act of our lives. If I don't do this now when will I ever do it?" Sloan's act was extremely entertaining and very well received from the audience of peers. It is not just the presenters but it is also the audiences that make art shares magical. Sometimes people on stage start off nervous but knowing the audience will cheer them on and give them encouragement, their anxiety calms. As Gilmore exclaimed, "That's one reason why we are doing this!" People return to present again and again and they bring others with them. And, "It just keeps getting better and better."

Macey Sigaty is a talented young photographer and has presented twice at AL SHARE. During her first time up to the stage her nature photography and double exposures had the audience blown away. And then she began to sing. She belted out the lyrics that inspired the photos (or perhaps it was the other way around). Small in stature but huge in talent Sigaty has hosted a pop-up show in the center's gallery and was featured as one of the four Emerging Artists at the 42nd Annual Leesburg Art Festival.

Deb Almy writes and narrates stories based in nature lore and mixes them with Native American flute music. Knowing how important it is to have a supportive venue for expression, Almy is one of the biggest fans of ART LOUNGE - SHARE. She graciously raffles off CDs at the event and gives 100% of the proceeds to the Center for the Arts. In addition, there is a donation jar with a suggestion of a $5 contribution to help keep CFA programs alive.

A few months after AL SHARE began an additional evening was added for artists to use the big tables and make art together. The stage lights are off and the house lights are on. ART LOUNGE - CREATE is an Urban Open Studio where people get together, work on their art and hang out. The stage is open for use but there isn't a sign up board. It is informal. People are invited to use the stage casually for jam sessions or practice. "But don't expect the artists to quiet down and pay attention. "We have art to make."

Far more than art is created at both ART LOUNGE events. Go online and check the website's calendar and then come to the next SHARE or CREATE event. #arthappenshere

ART LOUNGE - SHARE - third Wednesdays

ART LOUNGE - CREATE - first Wednesdays

6:30 - 8:30 @ the Center For the Arts in Leesburg

429 W. Magnolia St.

For more information contact Patt Gilmore, Program Coordinator -

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