After a two-year hiatus, the Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center is back in Gainesville.
The Doris, as it is more commonly known, reopened today with a brand-new exhibit showcasing wildlife art from 250 years of contemporary Florida artists.
The center shut the doors on its previous location in 2013 and has searched for a new home ever since, Norma Homan, the Arts Association of Alaucha County secretary, said. The new location, in downtown Gainesville at 1315 S. Main St., has more space and more parking than the old one, she said.
It has been renovated to include an art gallery, performance and teaching facilities, and meeting spaces for local organizations, according to its website.
As a result of its new location, the Doris will now serve as the headquarters of Artwalk Gainesville and aims to help develop the South Main Street Art District, according to a press release announcing the new location.
The new exhibit, called “Artist Naturalists in Florida: Then and Now,” features paintings and photography from more than 20 artists, including work from William Bartram, Mark Catesby and J.J. Audubon. The exhibit is on display at the Doris from Oct. 30 to Dec. 11.
Mallory O’Connor, curator for the wildlife art display, said that this is the first time this exhibit has been showcased, and she hopes to be able to create a traveling version to bring to art centers and libraries across the state.
“Gainesville has been called the place ‘where culture and nature meet,’ and that is the theme of this exhibition,” O’Connor said. “I think that the show really reflects the beauty of this part of Florida and also the wonderful abundance of plants and animals that continue to captivate and inspire artists.”
While in town, the exhibit will also include a number of workshops and lectures that allow the audience to engage with the art. Chris Burney, of the Alachua Conservation Trust, will teach visitors how to take field notes like a naturalist on Nov. 8. And Florida photographer and landscape painter Jeff Ripple will lead a photo safari through Paynes Prairie on Nov. 29.
The exhibit also reflects the values of the center’s benefactor and namesake, Doris Bardon, who passed away in 2006 and left behind her estate to establish a community cultural center in Gainesville.
“She was involved in many different groups and programs in the arts and in environmental concerns,” O’Connor said of Bardon. “Her passion for art and nature was her hallmark.”
Among Bardon’s contributions to the community are: helping to found the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra, the public radio station WUFT and the Women for Wise Growth organization.
The Arts Association of Alachua County created the center in 2011 with Bardon’s passions in mind, as well as the founding idea that the center would be a space for all, Homan said.
“She felt that Alachua County deserved a community cultural center located in the center of town that would be accessible to everyone – where artists, art organizations, people who just want to learn or network, people who want to listen to good music – would feel comfortable and welcome,” Homan said.
The center will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and general admission is free.