Alyne Harris, 79, painter from Gainesville, has been painting since a young age. She is inspired by nature and other favorite subjects such as angels, church scenes and people in her community. Some of his art is inspired by African-American traditions. Her painting routine mostly happens at night after finishing her work earlier in the day.
And now, after decades of artistic creation, the city of Gainesville will pay tribute to his work.
“I love to paint. I’ve always wanted to be an artist since I was a girl growing up,” Harris said.
In 2019, the Historic Thomas Center received a call from a gentleman saying his brother had passed away and he had several Harris paintings with interest in selling them to the city. At the time, the center was not formalized as a collecting institution.
After several months, City of Gainesville Director of Cultural Affairs Russell Etling, who manages the Thomas Historic Center, felt it was time to act and purchase the paintings. However, Etling and his team were surprised to find 400 pieces.
Anna Gilroy, curator of the city’s Thomas Center Galleries, had reservations about buying all 400 pieces. At the time, the City of Gainesville and Historic Thomas Center did not collect institutions by warrant.
Regardless of the setbacks and challenges the purchase brought, Etling felt the opportunity to purchase Harris’ work was part of the cultural heritage of the town of Gainesville.
Now, Harris will have 200 paintings on display in historic downtown Thomas and a weekend will be dedicated to him selling the additional 200 paintings to the public.
“The 200 pieces that were previously on display in our galleries will be part of the city’s permanent collection, but as I said there are 200 more pieces and we are making them available for purchase,” Etling said. .
The city paid $7,500 for the paintings, a price Etling described as “extremely reasonable terms” to be able to acquire Harris’ work.
“She is an important piece of Gainesville history and she is an important part of our cultural sector that is rare and very, very special,” Etling said.
According to Etling, 200 pieces will be displayed in the historic Thomas Center, which has been the cultural heart of Gainesville for more than three decades. The goal is to celebrate the story of Harris’ artistic legacy that spans more than four decades.
In 2020, Gilroy had to start preparing for what she and the center would do with the 400 works of art that needed to be cleaned up and managed.
Suddenly a global pandemic has arrived.
But the pandemic has become a blessing for her, not a curse. This allowed Gilroy and his team to spend more time with each piece and properly manage the entire collection.
“It gave us a space of time, a full year when the gallery was closed and all other exhibition activity ceased. So I spent a year with that job,” Gilroy said.
According to Gilroy, the city of Gainesville does not have the capacity, in good faith, to keep custody of all the exhibits. But she is excited about the opportunity to sell these remaining paintings to the public.
“People who may have known her for many decades or collected her work tell me they now see her in a new light,” Gilroy said.
Harris appreciates the city’s efforts.
“I’m glad people respect me. I try to treat people well, I try to do the right thing about everything,” she said.