‘To create something and complete it is nothing short of a blessing’
David Acevedo says the bright colors and roosters in his native Puerto Rico influence his art. STEPHANIE DAVIS / FLORIDA WEEKLY
I remember the first time I walked into artist David Acevedo’s DAAS Gallery in downtown Fort Myers in 2008. I was struck by the vibrant colors of his abstract paintings and the fun whimsy of the jewelry he designed — but most of all, by his big, welcoming smile. He was handsome, friendly and his enthusiasm for creating art was infectious. Not only is David passionate about his own art, as one of the original founders of Art Walk in downtown Fort Myers, he’s dedicated to promoting and supporting all local artists and making sure that art is an integral part of the community. His newest gallery is DAAS CO-OP Gallery & Gifts in Gardner’s Park near downtown.
David’s smile is still just as bright, and I enjoyed catching up with him via Faceard Time recently, as he had just arrived at his home from his day job and I was facing deadlines at my home office in downtown Fort Myers. Reunions are great — even if they’re electronic.
SD – Where are you from and how does your culture inspire your art?
“Tyler” by David Acevedo.
DA – I’m from a little town in Puerto Rico called Arecibo and just like everywhere in Puerto Rico the colors of nature are so vibrant, and Puerto Rican themselves tend to be very colorful in the way they paint their houses or in the way in which they express themselves. Bright colors are embedded in me — I use a lot of color for that reason. Also, sometimes the themes in my work, like roosters, are because roosters were always roaming around my neighborhood when I was a kid. I always think about the sky when I use certain blues in my paintings because the sky in Puerto Rico is a different, more vibrant blue than I’ve seen anywhere else. I’m constantly going back to memories of growing up in Puerto Rico.
SD – I know that you’re very close to your parents in Puerto Rico. What was it like a little over two years ago when Hurricane Maria hit the island?
DA – It was 70 days before I could talk to my mom and my dad on the phone. Even though I knew from a few sources that they survived it — it was still a struggle. But, my concern and worry weren’t only because of my parents, it was for my friends and for the island in general — knowing that this disaster was happening; no water, no electricity, no roofs over their heads. My parents did okay, because my dad has been building on our house for 40 years; so, by now it’s like a fortress. But, my mom has health issues and needs to be attended to constantly, so not having water or power for so long was a real struggle for them. Still, they did okay compared to many.
SD – What brought you to Southwest Florida from Puerto Rico and what was your initial impression of the area?
DA – I moved here for my day job. Back in Puerto Rico, I heard that the Social Security Administration was hiring. I had just graduated from college with an art degree and I was wondering how I would actually make a living on that — I was going to get my master’s, but then the job came along. I was chosen by three different and the one I chose was here. I got here in 2000 and my first impression was a bit of culture shock. I had moved to a section of Cape Coral that was still developing. I remember being depressed because I saw so many empty lots, it gave me a feeling of loneliness. Plus, I had come here by myself, I had no family, no friends — nothing here. But, then I started seeing potential. I discovered downtown Fort Myers — and now I love Southwest Florida with all my heart.
SD – With DAAS Gallery, you were one of the first downtown art pioneers of the early 2000s. What was it like starting a new business in the neighborhood back then?
DA – Ever since I was in art school, I always had a dream of starting an art gallery. I first opened a studio off Colonial, mainly just because I needed a studio to work in, but then, to my surprise, there was so much support from the local art community, plus I had gotten involved with the Alliance for the Arts, so things were starting to happen for me. In 2008, an opportunity showed up for a rental space on Broadway downtown. I took a leap of faith; I didn’t have a budget for it or anything — just faith that I was going to be okay. I opened in August and two months later, we had the first Art Walk.
SD – You were part of a group of artists who were such visionaries in creating Art Walk — what was the spark that got that flame going?
DA – We all had the same idea, we just hadn’t shared it with each yet. A gallery owner named Greg Knezevich, who used to live here, came to me and Xavier Brignoni, my good friend and gallery partner, after talking with Claudia Goode from the Arts for Act Gallery, who had talked to Jamie Kuser who publishes an art magazine, who had been talking to Terry Tincher who had the Space 39 art gallery — so, it was this domino effect. When we all started talking, I was like, “Xavier and I had the same idea!” So, Greg started coordinating meetings. There were a bunch of people involved like Andy Howl from the Howl Gallery. It became an explosion of ideas — we created the logo, the map and the buttons that participants would wear. It was amazing — our brains were aligned and working towards the same thing. We got a huge event together in just two months. When we started we had a lot of galleries downtown — about a dozen on our Art Walk map — the map featured one of my paintings, which I’m proud of.
SD – Downtown has lost a number of galleries since Art Walk first started, including yours, as you moved south closer to the Alliance. Why is that?
DA – The reality is that the landlords saw a potential that they hadn’t really seen before and they started increasing the rent prices downtown. It made it very difficult for many of the art galleries to survive. Also, when it came to Art Walk nights, people were focusing more on the new restaurants and bars that were opening up instead of the art. For the first couple of years of Art Walk, the first Friday of every month, you would see patrons leaving the galleries carrying wrapped up paintings and big packages — they were buying art. But later it became more focused on drinking, eating and socializing. The galleries kept bringing in exhibits, but we couldn’t compete with the bars, restaurants and nightlife. It was bound to happen — we brought people downtown and then the demand for space got bigger. Rent downtown back then was between $9 and $11 per square foot; now it’s up to around $30 or more. I guess it’s progress, but I believe that downtown Fort Myers could have ordinances, like other cities have, that if you have a law or business office, rather than retail, you would be on the second floor — and there should be subsidies for small businesses.
SD – I’ve always heard that art doesn’t follow real estate — real estate follows art.
DA – Exactly. There’s no protection for artists who are bringing people to the neighborhood, but I have no regrets — and we ended up with other opportunities.
SD – And now you have the DAAS CO-OP Gallery at the Butterfly Garden in Gardner’s Park, a burgeoning neighborhood at the edge of downtown with some exciting new shops and businesses.
DA – It was a lucky shot to get a space in Gardner’s Park. Xavier and I started a really great, huge artist’s co-op gallery at Colonial and McGregor, but we just weren’t getting the foot traffic we needed to support the artists involved in the project. We thought about going back downtown, but the spaces were either too small, or too expensive, or both. But then I found out about a perfect space at the Butterfly Garden and within a couple of weeks I was signing a lease. It was so exciting because it’s a destination — we get a lot of tourists as well as locals — foot traffic is fantastic. We’ve scaled down a bit, but we’re super happy to be there. The way an artist’s co-op works is that the artists who have work in the gallery help run it, I have a full-time job, so I can’t be there all the time — everyone pitches in. Xavier and I don’t make a profit — 100% of the commissions go back to the artists. This is how I want it. I only make money if I sell my own work. It’s for the art community and to continue the dream — there are so many artists in town that deserve a spot and should have a great opening with a wine and cheese and a big crowd.
SD – You were part of the downtown renaissance — where do you see Gardner’s Park in five years?
DA – I envision a very progressive art scene there. The difference between our neighborhood and downtown is that I don’t see artists and shop owners being priced out. The potential is for a walkable, artsy, beautiful, diverse, inclusive district where we can have all kinds of art, music, coffee shops — the possibilities are endless.
SD – When are you at your happiest?
DA – That moment when I finish a project. Usually a painting, that moment when I’m signing my name — it puts me on cloud nine. I put so much love and effort into everything I make, the process of using my hands and my imagination to create something and complete it is nothing short of a blessing. ¦
Art is his lifeblood: A profile of artist David Acevedo
Oct. 05, 2019
In an historically charming room surrounded by white walls that nearly pulse with the color red, David Acevedo, artist, co-owner and president of the DAAS CO-OP in the Gardner’s Park district of downtown Fort Myers, sits cool, calm and collected.
“Red has to be in my work. Red is blood to me, and if it’s in a circle, then it means it’s the life cycle,” he explains. “When I think of red, I think of the living being, the aspect of being alive. I always associate it with the knowledge that we are all red inside.”
When he wants to highlight something in his work, red is his color of choice.
“It looks good in cars, too,” he adds with a laugh, a nod to his red Volkswagen Beetle parked outside.
While red is often used as a highlight in his art, his color palette includes a lot of blue, from cobalt to a turquoise color that he compares to the shade of retro refrigerators.
He describes himself as an intuitive painter. He’s been described by others as an abstract-expressionist and a pop artist but finds that the word “intuitive” suits him best.
“Since I don’t use a strict subject or strict technique, I basically go with the flow and the moment, so I find that intuitive describes me best…I need to have a little bit of everything. I don’t want my art to be flat or boring,” he says.
Art was always part of David’s life, and his creativity stretches back decades to his childhood in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
“Art for me happened on its own. I never had a moment where I said, ‘Oh, I love art!’ It happened on a natural level,” he says.
Some of his early memories are of drawing and coloring, especially for his older sisters.
“When I first started showing my skills, my talent for art and sketching, they picked up on it and they would make me paint stuff for them. They would play teacher and I was the student; not only were they teaching me real things, but then they gave me paint to draw for them.”
David made comic books for his sisters, which he says they still have to this day.
“They were my first catalysts to get more ideas and explore what I could do with my talent.”
He attended the University of Puerto Rico and studied art, starting at the age of 16. It was his first time away from home.
After art school he intended to pursue his art education further, but his sister worked for the government and sent him a lead that they were hiring. He applied, was hired and arrived in Fort Myers in 2000.
“Wherever I landed, I was going to do something art-related,” David says. “Either as an artist or I always wanted to have a business, because it’s in my family — most of my family have a business or have had a business.”
He started by getting involved in the local arts scene through Alliance for the Arts and Arts for ACT. In 2006, David realized he needed his own space and opened his first professional art studio, David Acevedo Art Studio, and created his art there for about two years. Then the opportunity came to rent a space in downtown Fort Myers in 2007, which was a very different place than it is today.
“I was newer to the area and loved downtown Fort Myers and saw so much potential there,” he says.
He found a location on Broadway Street that was larger than he needed, so he made the space a gallery as well as a studio and stayed there through 2012, through the recession and the rebuilding and rebranding of downtown Fort Myers.
“I got lucky and was in the right place at the right time,” he says.
As the art scene grew and more artists and studios were attracted to the downtown area, an idea was born — Art Walk.
“Nobody had a name for it, nobody had a clear concept,” David explains. The first planning meeting was in August 2008 and, two months later, the first Art Walk took place and brought about 2,000 people downtown, by David’s estimate.
“It’s a great place and I love it,” he says.
In 2016, he re-opened DAAS (David Acevedo Art Studios) as a co-op in Royal Palm Square and, in 2019, DAAS CO-OP moved into its new home in the Gardner’s Park District next to the Butterfly Estates. The space is filled with artwork from 15 local artists and staffed by them as well, giving patrons and shoppers an opportunity to interact with the creators of the works of art on display and for sale.
“We’re very happy here,” David says. “There is a lot of community in this area and a sense of coming together.”
That sense of community is something David would like to see grow into something much bigger — an entire arts district. He believes Gardner’s Park has huge potential and could be moving in that direction.
“I think that Fort Myers as a city will eventually be like Wynwood, SoHo, the mere mention of the name makes you think of art and an art district,” he says. “Every time I get a chance, I always mention that, because I want people to realize the potential is there, but the support has to be there as well.”
Support could come from individuals attending performances and visiting galleries and purchasing pieces from local artists; it could also come from city administration and funding on a local and larger level. More than anything, though, David believes conversations need to be had, and art creates conversation. And he sees, in our society today, a need for different conversations and a return to a time of respect for each other, no matter our backgrounds or beliefs.
“There is a little bit of a disconnect with people in general,” David says. “We live in a time where people are too tense, whether from political reasons or other reasons… I dream of a time where we could just be free from that tension in a sense that we could respect each other’s opinions or have a different way of communicating them instead of posting [on social media]. We need more art that reflects unity, community, peace, the fact that we are all human, that we all belong to a place and have to share this space.”
Ft. Myers Magazine Jan-Feb 2016 Issue: SWFL Art Gallery Guide, cover story.
ArtSWFL.COM by Tom Hall
Local artist David Acevedo art jamming in Hong Kong in September (08-11-15)
Fort Myers artist Marcus Jansen has closed his gallery to the public this summer as he prepares to launch a two-year worldwide musuem exhibition tour. But he’s not the only local artist building an international resume. David Acevedo has recently announced that he will be joining forces in September with artist Vera Chiu in a collaborative project taking place at Hong Kong’s popular 22 Degrees North mega store.
The event is being called Acevedo/Chiu: Worlds Collide, and involves an art jam during which the two artists will create works of art live using their distinctive styles, which coincide in terms of vibrancy and intuitiveness. “With lots of acrylic paint, a bit of found objects from their own culture, and echoes of laughter, the two artists battle through art jam to show you their abstract art style,” states the Hong Kong press release announcing the show. “Whether you are an art fanatic or just looking for some weekend fun, you are welcome to drop by and join in the splat and splashes.”
The artworks made by the art-jammers will remain on exhibit at 22 Degrees North from the September 12 art happening through October 2.
Vera Chiu is an abstract artist and educator living in Hong Kong. Acevedo is known throughout Southwest Florida not only for his energetic pop art compositions, but for the transcendant impact he has exerted on the local art scene since relocating to Fort Myers from his native Puerto Rico in 2000. He not only owned and operated the transformative daas Gallery with his partner Xavier Brignoni, Acevedo co-founded Fort Myers Art Walk and The Union Artist Studios in the Williams Building on the campus of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts.
Chiu and Acevedo not only share complimentary artistic styles and sensibilities, they are both friends with Scottish artist Ronnie Ford. Ford and Acevedo co-founded the Vibrant Arts Movement and it was Acevedo who introduced Ford’s art and VAM to Southwest Florida during a 2009 show at daas Gallery. “Having this international connection has been crucial to my artistic career,” says Acevedo. “Thanks to Ronnie, I have been able to show my work in Scotland, Germany and now in Hong Kong, not to mention the blessing of having such an experienced and amazing artist as a friend and mentor.”
Acevedo also advances the arts in Southwest Florida as an avid arts writer for TOTI Media, which publishes Gulf & Main, Bonita & Estero and the international RSW Magazine. For more information about David and his work, please visit http://www.acevedostudio.com. The Union Artist Studios is located at 10051 McGregor Boulevard, Suite 202, in Fort Myers.
Local artist David Acevedo takes his vibrant colors to the pearl of the Orient
September, 2015 - Hong Kong will get a taste of southwest Florida art in September. David Acevedo has joined forces with artist Vera Chiu for a collaborative project, happening during an art jam reception on Saturday, September 12 at the popular 22 Degrees North mega store. During the opening night, the artists will create artwork live using their distinctive styles, which concur in terms of vibrancy and intuitiveness.
The pieces produced during the night will become part of the exhibition entitled Acevedo/Chiu: Worlds Collide, on display at the venue through October 2, 2015.
Visual artist David Acevedo has resided in southwest Florida since 2000. Originally from Puerto Rico, he came to our city with an honest desire to promote and better define the art scene in the area. After establishing his first professional studio, which then transcended into the well-known daas Gallery in 2008, Acevedo achieved important goals such as the co-founding of the Fort Myers Art Walk and the incorporation of one the more active artists groups in town, properly called The Union Artist Studios.
Vera Chiu is an abstract artist and educator living in Hong Kong. Just like Acevedo, she has collaborated in a variety of artistic projects with Scottish artist Ronnie Ford, whose works were first introduced to southwest Florida by the daas Gallery in 2009 – exhibition coordinated and funded by then gallery directors David Acevedo and Xavier Brignoni. “Having this international connection has been crucial to my artistic career” – says Acevedo, who is also a co-founding member of the Vibrant Arts Movement (VAM). “Thanks to Ronnie [Ford], I have been able to show my work in Scotland, Germany and now in Hong Kong; not to mention the blessing of having such an experienced and amazing artist as friend and mentor.” – adds the artist who recently showed an impressive collection of new works locally, at the Sidney Berne Davis Art Center.
The excerpt from the Hong Kong Press Release details the following: Acevedo/ Chiu: Worlds Collide Events: Art Jam night/opening: 12th September 2015 7:00-10:00pm Exhibition: 12th September - 2nd October Monday- Friday 12:00pm-8:00pm Art doesn’t need to be high, that’s why on September 12th 7:00-10:00pm American artist David Acevedo came together with local artist Vera Chiu presenting Acevedo/ Chiu: World Collides at 22 Degrees North! With a lot of acrylic paint, a bit of found objects from their own culture and echoes of laughter, the two artists battles through art jam to show you their abstract art style! Whether you are an art fanatic or just looking for some weekend fun, you are welcome to drop by and join in the splat and splashes! The artworks made by all art-jammers will be on exhibit at the venue from September 12th to October 2nd 2015. #world collides #VeraChiu #DavidAcevedo #Art Jam塑顏夜 #Art Jam塑顏展.
David Acevedo is also an avid arts writer for TOTI Media, who publishes four titles in our area including Gulf& Main and the international RSW Magazine. More information about David Acevedo and this event can be found in the artist’s website at acevedostudio.com. The Union Artist Studios is located in the Alliance for the Arts campus at 10051 McGregor Blvd STE 202 in Fort Myers, FL.■
ArtPoems comes to BIG Arts New artists and poets expand trans-media collaborations By: Yohana de la Torre, Chief Editor
Paradox By: David Acevedo
ArtPoems, the collaborative trans-media poet and artist project of Southwest Florida, will celebrate its eighth year at BIG Arts, Sanibel on Friday, February 28, 2014.
Ranging from Peace River to Sanibel, from Cape Coral to Fort Myers and Naples, the group of 12 artists and 12 poets has collaborated to produce poems inspired by artworks and artworks inspired by poems.
Each artist and poet selects names at an initial meeting in November. Poets bring 5 poems for the artist to choose from to create a new work of art. Artists, in turn, bring 5 works of art for the poet to choose from to create a new poem. Twenty-four ArtPoems are created and presented live on stage with digital photos of each piece enlarged on screen. Poets will perform their poems, sonnets, ballads, and free verse while the paired paintings, sculptures, photography and mixed media artwork are shown.
“ArtPoems always surprises with a fresh look at what inspires creativity,” says the events Chair, Lorraine Walker Williams. “Each year the serendipitous pairing of poet and artist moves me to make it “new,” to work with superbly talented individuals and to bring ArtPoems to a wider audience. A kind of magic has evolved over eight years when ArtPoems’ members step on stage, and I’m so proud of that.”
A reception will be held prior to the performance in Schein Hall where poems and art will be displayed and the audience will be able to meet and mingle with the artists and poets.
Each year, ArtPoems presents a diversity of talent and subject matter, which reflects not only the culture of Southwest Florida, but reaches out to the world. The goal of ArtPoems continues to be “shaking the muse loose” moving artists and poets out of their comfort zones to stretch creativity and move in new directions.
Award-winning artists Myra Roberts, David Acevedo, Andrew Corke and Jonas Stirner will join last year’s collaborating artists, Peg Cullen, Mary Ann Devos, Cheryl Fausel, Sheila Hoen, David King, Andi McCarter, Jan Palmer and J.R. Roberts.
“It is my very first year participating in ArtPoems and I am very impressed with the incredible talent involved,” says artist David Acevedo. “The combination of art and poetry makes for a powerful method of expression and these collaborations are simply magical. Can’t wait for the publics reaction to our works.”
New poets Gary MacLouth and Megan Davis will join last year’s poet members Dorothy Brooks, J.D. Daniels, Carol Drummond, Sandy Greco, Joseph Pacheco, Marsha Perlman, Sid Simon, Larry Stiles, Pat Washington and Lorraine Walker Williams, Creator and Chair of ArtPoems. Many poets have published extensively and authored a number of books.
Harpist, Methel Gale and dancers from Dance Alliance will accompany several of the ArtPoems presentations.
- ArtPoems will take place on February 28, 2014 at BIG Arts located at 900 Dunlop Road in Sanibel, FL. For more information visit www.bigarts.org or www.artpoems.org!
Visual Arts: Views from dark side
Artist David Acevedo explores it in 'Protest/ Proposal' at the Arts for ACT Gallery.
Oct. 3, 2013 The News-Press, Gulfcoasting Section
Say goodbye to color. Say goodbye to whimsy.
In other words, say goodbye to the old David Acevedo.
At least for now.
The popular Cape Coral artist is trying something new and unexpected: Moody, black-and-white paintings that shed his usual style for something starker and darker.
“It’s a complete rebellion against what I used to do, all that colorful stuff,” Acevedo explains. “Everybody was always focused on the colors, and they’d always say, ‘Oh, it’s so vibrant and colorful!’”
The public sees Acevedo’s new art for the first time tonight during the fifth anniversary celebration of Art Walk in downtown Fort Myers. His “Protest/Proposal” series debuts at Arts for ACT gallery and continues through Oct. 28.
“I’m actually nervous!” Acevedo says. “I’m anxious to see how people are going to react.”
It’s the latest stop in an artistic journey Acevedo has been taking since he was a child growing up in Puerto Rico, fascinated by comics, coloring books and the illustrations in the family Bible. That fascination led him to art college in his home country, art exhibits in Southwest Florida after he moved here for a job, and later the founding of Art Walk and his former art gallery, daas Gallery, in downtown Fort Myers.
And now this.
Arts for ACT Gallery curator Claudia Goode saw Acevedo’s new work for the first time on Monday, and she loved what she saw. She thinks art lovers will love it, too. This is Acevedo’s third or fourth exhibit there, she says.
“You can still see David in there,” Goode says. “There’s still some color. But there’s a darker David in there, too. I think it’s going to be a pleasant surprise (for people).”
Acevedo says he’s always had a darker sensibility – for example, he loves heavy metal bands such as Testament and Dream Theater – but somehow he ended up getting typecast for his more colorful work. His previous style is full of bright colors, bold lines and simple, powerful images – something he picked up partly from his early love of comic books.
“I’ve always had a dark side,” he says. “I’ve just never really let it out.”
Goode asked Acevedo to appear at the exhibit for tonight’s big Art Walk celebration. It makes sense, she says: Acevedo and business partner Xavier Brignoni helped start the monthly art event five years ago. They operated their downtown daas Gallery from April 2008 until they closed it in July 2012.
“They were such an important part of our little downtown community here,” Goode says.
Now Acevedo and Brignoni share art space at Union Artist Studios with six other artists. The second-floor space on the Alliance for the Arts campus features five mini-studios and a central lobby/gift shop area.
Acevedo says he struggled trying to make art after closing daas Gallery last summer, but he just couldn’t find inspiration.
Then a chance encounter in an Arcadia antique shop sparked a change. He discovered some black-and-white high-school graduation photos from the early 20th century, and something about those images spoke to him. The young men sat straight and stoic, and Acevedo knew what he wanted to do: He wanted to free them from their portrait-studio bondage.
So he took those photos and plopped them, collage-style, in the middle of new settings: Riding a pitch-black galloping horse, for example, over a field of gray. Or perched above a triangular swath of black that resembles a graduation gown … or a dress.
Acevedo hates to say what these silhouette-like images “mean” – that’s up for the viewer to decide. But when pressed, he says the dresses are meant to subvert our ideas of religion, society and traditional masculinity. And the horses symbolize combat, strength and rebellion.
Then again, Acevedo admits he’s kind of guessing here. He usually paints in the heat of the moment with a crystal-clear idea in his head. But once he puts the paintbrush down, the original inspiration evaporates.
“At the moment, it makes perfect sense to me, the symbolism,” he says. “I guess I let it out in that moment, and when it’s done, it’s done.”
All he knows for sure is this: Once he started working in this new style, his creative block magically lifted. He began painting with passion again.
“All of the sudden, it started flowing,” Acevedo says. “One after the other.”
Acevedo doesn’t know where his artistic journey will take him next. Maybe this will be his “black period,” and then he’ll return to his usual bright colors and whimsy.
Either way, he says this is the art he plans to make for the time being.
“This is what I’m doing for now,” he says. “I can’t tell you if I’m going to stay on the dark side.”
David Acevedo tried out collage for the first time in this series combining old graduation photos with paint on canvas.
David Acevedo seeks to free the people in old graduation photos by transporting them to new settings, such as a galloping horse. / photos Special to The News-Press
David Acevedo's 'Empty Box & Me' will be Daas' last exhibit and Art Walk