Three and a half years after opening the minimalist art gallery that bears his name, Chad Mize looks back with more than a little pride: his idea, after all, was a good one.
“It’s a project that fascinates me,” he says. “I really wanted to open up the space to have a place to work, show my own work and have a place for the community. I feel like that’s what it really is, it’s about community. It’s giving people the opportunity to present their work, to express themselves.
Each month brings a new collective exhibition, around a different theme. On the walls until mid-October is critters, the 40e such exhibition at the Mize Gallery since its debut in March 2018.
More than 140 artists responded to the open call for applications. “The concept was animal art, and it had to be 12 × 12 or less,” Mize reports. “The person who applied gave me their top five animals, and then we assigned them an animal. We didn’t want to ride. Although I made two possums by accident. And two salamanders.
St. Pete’s artist Bob Ribitz, who died on August 28, was to paint a camel’s canvas.
There are 66 pieces in critters, local and Florida artists, artists from other states and even from two European countries (Austria and the Netherlands).
Although the Mize Gallery has done entirely local exhibitions, “the work,” says Mize, “is really what attracts me. I want to have really top notch artists. Even the artists whose work I’ve shown over and over again, I feel like they’ve improved over the year. I’m not in their studio with them, but I think they know what to expect when they show.
“I am proud to be all-inclusive. I have a wide range of different types of artists, from established artists to newbies. And then the age groups, the sexualities, all that sort of thing.
Not only that, “I want a diverse mix. Some of them are professional artists, this is how they make their money, and some are amateurs. They want to take part in a show just to express themselves.
Mize, who grew up in Bradenton, has arrived in Pinellas County in 2003 after a stint in Boston. He operated a St. Pete Gallery, Blue Lucy, for several years before taking time off, returning in 2018 with Mize Gallery, 689 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N. His partner, Dan Schmidt, owns Uptown Eats next to.
One of Mize’s signature murals covers the eastern wall of Uptown’s interior. His colorful designs are all over town, in fact – he’s a frequent attendee of the SHINE Mural Festival (for this year he’s painting his signature free flow style on a Polaris Slingshot).
Mize is also known for his Chizzy brand, a local line of clothing, gifts, and other items and curios focused on St. Pete.
Chizzy, in fact, pays to keep the power going at Mize Gallery. His popular murals too. Mize’s other source of income is the cut he takes from sales of the work in the gallery’s thematic exhibitions. “I’m not a good artist per se, I’m more of a commercial artist,” he says. “There are all of these things that I do to generate income, so I don’t just paint all day. “
Many artists, he notes, do not have the luxury of multiple sources of income. “It’s a problem I find with a lot of the artists I show – can they afford to live here? Can they afford to be an artist?
The lack of affordable housing for artists in a self-proclaimed City of the Arts is a painful subject for Chad Mize (as for many of St. Pete’s creators).
Nonetheless, he is happy with his current situation (“I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Florida”) and admits that he gets a little chill every time someone drops off a new piece for an exhibition at the Mize Gallery, as if he saw his original concept. – his idea for the theme of the month – takes shape before his eyes.
“I realized that I am good at branding,” says Mize. “There’s an art form in even bringing these artists together and being very organized as a person to send emails and make sure everyone is communicating and selling art – we’ve sold 20 pieces. so far in this show. I have asked several people to buy three at a time.
“As an artist you always doubt yourself over the years: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ I could be somewhere else with my own art, not spending all my time creating this sort of thing. But last year I had a revelation: that this was my art form, and that’s what I was supposed to do. “