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Downtown art gallery fundraising to refurbish venue

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NEW PORT RICHEY ­— Changes are coming to the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery as its new director works to raise money for the “Gallery Refurbishment Project” to update the look of Main Street’s artistic gem.

Bonnie Bratby-Carey, who has degrees in fine arts and marketing, has been patronizing the gallery for some time, attending author readings and checking out new exhibits. When former director Nancy Ciesla stepped down to accept a job in Hernando County, Bonnie Bratby-Carey approached her about taking over as the gallery’s director.

Although no date is set for the gallery makeover, Bratby-Carey said in the next year she hopes to have new laminate flooring installed, a better art hanging system set up and the walls repainted.

“We want to give it a fresh, new look,” she said. “We’ll also be unveiling a new logo.”

The gallery was known as the Progress Energy Art Gallery for about a decade. After Progress Energy merged with Duke Energy and the combined company kept the Duke name, the gallery changed its name to the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery earlier this year.

Gallery leaders hope to compensate for the sponsorship loss by having more membership sign-ups and raising money at “Partee on the Cotee,” the gallery’s 2013 fundraiser and cruise.

The gallery invites the public to enjoy cocktails and a buffet in the gallery before boarding the Miss Daisy Boat at Sims Park for a cruise on the holiday-lit Pithlachascotee River. Patrons will be invited back to the gallery after the cruise for dessert, coffee and hot toddies. All proceeds will go to the gallery’s refurbishment project.

With the new director comes a renewed push in creating awareness about the gallery’s existence. Bratby-Carey will broaden the use of social media to reach out to new audiences who may not know the gallery is nestled in the heart of downtown New Port Richey.

“It’s not easy to create awareness when you don’t have an advertising budget,” Bratby-Carey said. “It has to be done through social media, word-of-mouth and referral.”

Bratby-Carey said she is looking for an intern, a social media savvy student who can come into the gallery one or two days a week to get the artistic venue active on more social media sites and to update them and the website, which Bratby-Carey hopes to revamp.

Bratby-Carey said it’s not just millennials active on social media. While 89 percent of Internet users ages 18-29 are using social media, according to Pew Internet Project’s research, 70 percent of those ages 30-49, 60 percent of those ages 50-63 and 43 percent of those ages 65 and older are using social media to connect to others online.

“You are seeing all age groups really get involved,” Bratby-Carey said.

The cruise fundraiser will get underway at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30. Tickets are $35 and seating is limited. To make reservations, call Bratby-Carey at (727) 848-6500.

Other upcoming events include an open mic poetry reading and one-act performance of “Cats Grieve, Too!” by local playwright and author Ralph Annan at 6:30-8 p.m. Friday at the gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd., next to the Richey Suncoast Theater. The event is free.

Also on display through December is the Gallery’s Handmade Holiday Gifts exhibition, along with collage artwork from Genesis Preparatory School in New Port Richey. For information, call the gallery at (727) 848-6500.

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