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Nine Local Artists Create Geckos for Charity Auction

Posted By LocalShops1, Monday, June 15, 2015

Local artists Janet Folsom, Denise Keegan, Lenne’ Nicklaus-Ball, Owen Pach, Tom Pitzen, John Ricci, Jonathan Schork, Frank Strunk III and Matt Worsham have been selected to create the larger-than-life geckos that will be the centerpiece of a live auction to benefit local charities.  


The  geckos, measuring about three feet long, will be on display in at the following locations throughout the Gulfport Waterfront District starting July 4, 2015:

  • Domain Home Accessories & Gallery
  • Gulfport Beach Bazaar
  • Little Tommie’s Tiki
  • Mangia Gourmet
  • Philanthropee
  • Pia’s Trattoria
  • T and Me Tea Co.
  • Tangelo’s Grille
  • Yummy’s

The pieces will be auctioned during the seventh annual Gecko Ball on Saturday, August 29.  Advance bids will be accepted for geckos at these preview locations.  An art show featuring a variety of work by the nine gecko artists will be on display at Gulfport’s Catherine Hickman Theater, with an opening reception scheduled for Friday, August 7, at 6 p.m.                          


The annual Gecko Ball at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom has become known as Gulfport’s Party of the Year!  This year’s theme is “Gecko Gras!” evoking the color and pageantry of Mardi Gras, its costumes, music, food and fun. In addition to the live auction, the event includes dozens of silent auction items, costumes and costume contests, tapas catered by Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro, cash bar, music by the Jammin’ Jambalaya Band, dancing and more. A portion of proceeds from Gecko Ball,will benefit CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), the Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library, Daystar Life Center and the Sonia Plotnick Health Fund.


Artists from Gulfport or with ties to Gulfport have volunteered their time and talent to create a gecko:

Janet Folsom is a passionate and experienced painter, feeling compelled to capture the spirit of her subjects.The Gulfport artist recently was awarded Best in Show at the All Florida Show at Morean Arts Center.  

Denise Keegan worked in painting before moving to Gulfport a few years ago. Inspired her new home town’s eccentricity, she has broadened her focus to include mixed media art that incorporates found and recycled objects.  Her "Tossed and Found" pieces can be seen throughout Gulfport in private homes and businesses. 

Lenne’ Nicklaus-Ball has displayed her mixed media art work in public and private galleries throughout the Eastern U.S., as well as having been involved in over nine museum exhibits and several public art projects.  Her work has also been purchased by private collectors in the U.S., Europe and South America.  

Owen Pach was an established woodworking artist at the age of 30 in Ybor City when he discovered his passion for glass art.  His work is included in numerous private and public art collections, and he has inspired many of his students over the years to pursue their own glass passions. He originated the gecko art auction event in 2010.  

Tom Pitzen was educated in art and design and went on to open a custom wood shop in Ohio, offering custom cabinetry, furniture and displays.  Many of his pieces for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio travelled with exhibits throughout North America.  He and his family now live and work in Gulfport.  His first large-scale public art installation was created in 2009 and stands in front of the Gulfport Neighborhood Center.  His art studio is in Gulfport’s Alley of the Arts.  

John Ricci identified as an artist at an early age while in grade school, though he was only able to create art work intermittently during his adult working years. Retirement has allowed him to concentrate on his art, including jewelry design and sculpture. He is also an actor and member of SAG/AFTRA. 


Jonathan Schork creates work within a wide range of creative processes including painting, photography, sculpture, couture, writing, literature, film and theatre. He is an award-winning creator of public sculptures.  Light and sound are often incorporated into pieces that may otherwise have been “static.”  He calls himself an “alchemist” in his sculptural work, “turning something into something else.”  

 FrankStrunk III grew up around his father’s print shop, sparking his interest in machinery and its function.  The experiences proved to be a springboard into the Gulfport artists's work, which often incorporates machine parts or machine-themed concepts. 

Matt Worsham creates textile-based mixed media folk-art inspired sculptures depicting whimsical animals, mythological or fantasy-based creatures and more. His work, GypsyCat Creations, is offered in local galleries and shops.  He also performs as a musician with his band D20 and as a solo artist.  He is a longstanding professional in his career of teaching art and music to adults with developmental disabilities.


All Gecko events are sponsored by the non-profit Gulfport Merchants Association.  For  information contact Michael Gauthier: (207) 312-4317 or

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Tags:  gulfport  local art  things to do 

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