Art at the Plaza does not resemble a stereotypical art gallery. There are no white walls, isolated frames or highlighted sculptures. Rather, it is perhaps the manifestation of an art lover’s sub-conscience. With paintings piled on top of paintings, and ponderous glass statues standing beside bronze figures fixed in yoga poses, one can get lost among an eruption of style and color. Thankfully, Tina Smith is there to guide you through it all.
Smith has owned the art gallery for 17 years and has shared all responsibilities with her daughter, Tracy Stanich, for the past nine. Together they make the gallery go, which includes commissioning works, advising individual and corporate collectors, and connect prospective buyers to various artists.
“The clients are number one,” Smith explains. “I am concerned with giving them fair prices, making them involved in the buying experience.”
One would not expect to find a gallery of Art at the Plaza’s character residing in a nondescript shopping center. It is almost like stumbling into a neighbor’s attic to find a wealth of cultural expression. The anti-anxiety nature of the Largo art scene is a welcome feature of Smith's adopted home.
“My favorite thing about being here is dealing with pleasant people. I have never had an awkward experience, and the one time someone paid with a “hot” check, they quickly reimbursed me,” she said.
The Gallery does not have a specific theme, or cater to a particular art movement, expounds Smith. Rather it operates within a community of artists and publishers that range from Peru to Israel.
Smith grew up just outside of Venice, Italy, but has been away from her home town too long to miss it. She graduated college with a degree in history and has traveled from Japan to America's west coast over the years. Largo, however, has been her home the past two and a half decades. Art at the Plaza began when she left another gallery to start out on her own.
Smith has an egalitarian sensibility. She fashions herself a guardian of her customer’s artistic predilections. That is, she helps them find those pieces that fit within their visual palate.
“Their taste is their taste,” she said emphatically. “I try to give my clients a relaxed atmosphere, because many people are scared off by art. People need to do what they want to do.”
Smith’s tastes include the surrealistic affectations of Giorgio Di Chirico, and Marc Chagall’s figurativism. Smith and her daughter have works by Chagall, Picasso and others hidden in their miasma of brushstrokes and frames.
Art at the Plaza is working toward producing a show featuring Rocky Bridges (the artist, not the ballplayer) and Michaele Vollbracht in February. If it is anything like the Gallery, the collection with be eclectic and engaging.