“This place has a pulse,” said Thomas Davis, co-owner of Collector’s Cafe and Gallery, which is holding its 20th anniversary summer art show.
And so it does. Each vibrant chamber pulses with a life of its own, displaying bright oil paintings, metal sculptures, mosaics and mixed media. They all bleed together in this winding establishment, creating a living heartbeat that remains with you even after you’re gone.
It’s hard to imagine that 20 years ago, this 6,000-square-foot gallery was once an eye doctor’s office, but it was. That is, before fellow artists and business partners Thomas Davis and Michael Craig turned it into a masterpiece collection, restaurant and coffee house.
The venue is featuring more than 100 new works of art, commemorating its 20-year milestone with the anniversary summer art show running from July 11 to Sept. 15. Davis said the art show is not just about the new pieces, but it also is a celebration of all the permanent fixtures and features that have been there since their founding days.
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While there seems to be no over-arching, thematic agenda driving the display, by no means is that a flaw for this lively, eclectic exhibit of talent. The collection simply wants to celebrate art in and of itself, in every energetic shade, and to underscore the warm tone of a friendship and business partnership that fostered a successful and imaginative collaboration.
Davis is a third-generation local in the Myrtle Beach area, and it shows in his art. Some of his colorful works display beach beauties soaking up the sun and enjoying the ocean, revealing the nostalgic heart of the artist. The flamboyant palate of his “Capri Girl” gives the main dining room a splash of color and a little bit of mystery, as there’s definitely a story to be told behind the island girl’s Mona Lisa smile. Craig’s “Watermelon Waterfall” also adds to the colorful ambiance of the Cafe’s restaurant, illustrating a pile of bright watermelons cascading downward before bursting at the bottom to reveal their bright insides.
The main dining room seems to host much of the owners’ creations, but many artists from all over the world are featured throughout the large space. They all blend together to create a colorful current that swirls through each room of the establishment.
“It’s amazing. There’s such a neat variety here,” said Mary Troyer, who was visiting the exhibit from Columbia with her husband, Devin Troyer.
Variety does seem to describe this show best. It is unique in pulling off an expert, escape-artist trick, as it bypasses the dreaded interior design flaw of busyness and instead weaves all the different strands together to create a successful and unique tapestry.
“This place is like heaven,” said patron John Joyner, noting an otherworldly vibe.
“All the senses are affected here,” said Davis, when asked how he would describe his gallery and restaurant.
The eyes have a feast of colors before them. The delicious aroma of gourmet dishes, such as rack of lamb and duck, waft through the air. Plush, velvety couches are spread throughout the establishment, giving the atmosphere a tactile sensation. Smooth jazz underscores it all, and good taste is all around.
Davis said he and Craig designed each room themselves, largely inspired by French bistros of the 1920s. The Tuscan-style ceiling beams that stretch from the coffee house area to the cocktail lounge add a bit of Italy, too.
The atmosphere largely appeals to the senses, but the mind also is intrigued because storytelling is at play here, too. Davis said each of the detailed and colorful mosaics of the cocktail bar and coffee house tell a story of how the substance they’re serving is made. The coffee bar shows how a cup of coffee is crafted from beans, while the wine and cocktail bar illustrate how a glass of wine is made, evoking styles from artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci — admittedly Davis’ favorite out of all his work on display.
“It’s held up great for 20 years,” said Davis proudly. “I feel very blessed that I get to do what I love for a living and very fortunate to have a great business partner.”
Some of the featured artists, aside from Davis and Craig, are: Laurence Feir, David McCure, Karen Wyles, Alex Powers, Karen Edgar, Bobbi Holt, Kimberly Dawn, Katy Gilbert, Riley Smith, Daniel Simeonov, John Bickel, Michael Kennedy, Stuart Fleishman, Becky Jones and Steve Schuman.