Artist Valerie Perreault and her husband Andy Downs celebrate the gallery’s opening night gathering. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

Quarantine kept artist Valerie Perreault and her dedicated team busy. Not only was she creating new collections while her studio, Portside Studio & Gallery, was closed, Perreault signed on, prepared and opened a new, larger gallery and community space at Ocean Sotheby’s in Islamorada.

Perreault’s new studio and gallery took 10 weeks and lots of love and dedication to go from “low aluminum ceilings with everything showing” to a sleek, welcoming space full of art, music, color and community, she said.

“It’s four times bigger, and I am so excited to create a bunch of community around it and in it,” she said. 

Florida Keys musician Leah Sutter crooned on the second night of the Portside Studio & Gallery opening party to set the mood. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

She envisions the creative space to house not just her own art, but also community gatherings and celebrations. There’s a stage in the back right corner, highlighted by classic pieces from Perreault’s previous collections that celebrate the “sweltering summer in the Keys” as well as her “love letter to Islamorada.” She is well known for these playful snippets of island life. 

In creating the bigger space, she had hoped it would push her art further, and the result has been her newest collection, which is presented to the community on the broad walls of the new gallery. This quarantine collection “reflect(s) the artist’s immediate world (her home and belongings) and her inner world (her struggles with passing time and finding solace) during those difficult months” of lockdown from April to September 2020.

“It feels like spreading my wings, like wiser decisions about shoes ‒ that’s what it feels like,” Perreault said.

J.D. Reinbott, of Tavernier, was on hand at the gallery opening and noted the weight of the work. In particular, he was drawn to an embellished woodcut that was hand-carved, hand-inked and hand-pressed.

“I need this,” he said. “Honestly, this is the first time art has ever spoken to me. I want it as a tattoo.”

Others agreed, with collectors, friends and fans coming from hours away to take in Perreault’s new space and art. The artist shared her joy, gratitude and exhaustion about the opening.

“My mind was clashing with reality, and it was intense. There were days I thought for sure we were not going to be able to open,” she said. “But we did it. It’s incredible that I dreamed something up, and now I’m walking around in my dream. It’s an insane release.”

Perreault is excited to open her space to the public and continue cultivating the community she loves — after a well-deserved rest, of course.

You can visit the new Portside Studio & Gallery at 81888 Overseas Highway (MM 81, Bayside). The space is upstairs, behind Ocean Sotheby’s.

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