By Greg Carannnate
It’s easy to miss what is perhaps Fort Lauderdale’s best-kept little secret of the arts. In the downtown shadow of a parking behemoth, it sits so discreetly back from the street that I drive right past, despite the dot on my GPS map blinking that I’d arrived. All the distinctive little green structure reveals is two small words painted in white above three larger numbers on the door. I open it and a large cat scurries across my path. Ah, yes, this is the Girls’ Club.
It’s a tidy, unassuming space, narrow with a loft, engaging with mixed media. My eye is drawn to an impressive pile of balloons “performing” deflation on the floor, their strings attached to a Life Coach Care Bear mounted on one of the walls, which are painted in shades of purple.
“This is one of our most ambitious exhibitions, one of the first that we really played with exhibition design,” says gallery director Sarah Michelle Rupert. “The purple on the walls stands for bands of human consciousness. It acts not as a glue, but as a streaming canvas to absorb the 50 works by over 40 artists.”
It’s obvious that this is one highly inspired canvas. As the director guides me through it, that’s when the little secret is spilled.
“We are the only private collection open to the public that focuses on contemporary art by women in the world,” she says.
“In the world?” I ask.
She explains that confirmation of such distinction came by way of a Rizzoli Books publisher visiting during research for a major project about private collectors and their private spaces.
“We were very surprised to find that we were the only ones doing this,” Rupert says. “That is something we’re very proud to have here in Fort Lauderdale.”
But the Girls’ Club is not really one to blow its own horn, having emerged rather indigenously and inconspicuously from the adjoining studio of celebrated artist Francie Bishop Good, who with philanthropist husband David Horvitz opened the not-for-profit space in 2007 to share their collections of over 700 works – mostly by women. Horvitz is a major player in South Florida’s art world and chairman of the board of the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale.
Before there was a Girls’ Club, “when Good would collect another piece, she’d say, there’s another one for the girls’ club,” Rupert says of the derivation. That affectionate nickname now brands a space that – thanks to strong word of mouth and an excellent website – offers mostly free year-round programming, including a couple of events each month, group tours and workshops (some for charities like Kids in Distress) and an annual show in which guest curators draw from the imposing Good-Horvitz collection.
In the current exhibit, Miami artist team TM Sisters, Monica and Natasha Lopez de Victoria, amassed works ranging from paintings and photos to video installations and a glowing blue and pink neon script that spells out the inspiration for the show’s title, I Think It’s in My Head. And, of course, there’s the balloon “performative piece” by Autumn Casey titled Life Coach. The show is on view through Sept. 26.
Another artist in the exhibit, Cuban-native Dinorah de Jesús Rodriguez, will be featured in the free “Artists in Action” talk on May 23. For more info, please visit girlsclubcollection.org.
Photo by Robin Hill; Glavovic Studio, Firm Architect; Margi Nothard, Project Designer