Michael Dunlap Is Thankful for Artists’ Collaboration

I am grateful for the sustained collaboration of our highly accomplished Southlight Gallery artists, as well as the supportive business community and the related forward-thinking policies created by City Hall, like the creation of Downtown Vision Inc. Many of our members have been involved in the local art arena for 30-plus years, and the result is the diverse Southlight collection, which sets a high standard in the Downtown visual arts community.

A brief history of old and new doors: From the Greenleaf Building to West Forsyth Street to the Dyal Upchurch über gallery and the recent move to the Levy Building, the Off the Grid program creates a chance for galleries to lease blank storefronts at below-market rates. One project at a time, the city breathes a new vibrancy. This is precisely how places evolve into Great Places.

I am grateful that the Downtown core has made substantial progress over the last decade; for example, Art Walk is celebrating 10 years of success. Constituent elements of a great Downtown are falling into place: a diverse 24/7 urban core, vibrant street life, a cross section of housing (with price ranges for all), many new cafés, strong nightlife on Bay Street, 43,000 parking spaces (more than four Disney World parks), a spattering of retail, and major business investment. Shad Khan’s investment in the Laura Street Trio will change everything, not to mention the $20 million investment in the Haydon Burns Library adaptive re-use by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

From the ground floor of the historic Levy Building, sales at Southlight are increasing. As important as that may be, it is not the driving mission of the collaborative. We value art, conversation, camaraderie and the ongoing presentation of our work. As the creative class invests in our community, we all win, whether it’s a gallery, café, loft or shop. The true sustainability over the next decade will be improving the considerable assets we have. As our urban core moves from a place with a rich history to a Great Place, we are all grateful to be part of the ongoing solution.