Longtime Flagler art studio moves to Ormond
Laugh lines deepen around the eyes of the tall, trim 74-year-old as he remembers his introduction to the sea.
“My brother threw me into the ocean when I was four years old,” said Frank Gromling, who recently opened Ocean Art Gallery in Granada Plaza. “I have a life-long connection to the ocean.”
Growing up in Rhode Island and traveling the world during his career in the security business, Gromling always had a passion for nature, and it grew stronger after retiring to Flagler County in 1999.
He was the first volunteer for the Marineland Right Whale Project in 2001, developing a whale monitoring strategy for the local coast. He also wrote books on right whales (“Frank’s Whales) and turtles (“Tracks in the Sand”).
His interest led to the creation of Ocean Art Gallery, which he recently re-located to Granada Plaza at the corner of State Road A1A and East Granada Boulevard.
At a Grand Opening on Aug. 24, Kay Galloway, who works in marketing at the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the gallery is a positive addition to the growing art and culture of the area.
While marine art was the focus of Ocean Art Gallery in the beginning, there is a wide mix of subjects in his new Ormond Beach location. He called Ormond Beach a “blank canvas,” saying he will let the customers determine what types of art to display.
Gromling said he made a business decision in moving to Ormond Beach, and, so far, it’s working out. He has been getting as many visitors in one day as he got on Moody Boulevard in Flagler Beach in a week, he said.
“It’s a wonderful plaza with six restaurants,” he said, pointing to the amount of foot traffic on the sidewalk and cars passing by.
He was also attracted by the local art community, referring to the Ormond Beach Arts District, and he was interested by the video “The Artist Next Door,” which showcases 10 Ormond Beach artists and was shown recently on PBS.
Ocean Art Gallery currently features 27 artists, with four from Ormond Beach. All but three of the others are from Florida.
Gromling said he wants visitors to enjoy their visit to the gallery and feel welcome. The gallery has a relaxed feel, with art spaced comfortably, rather than crowded together as is the case in some other galleries.
Much of the art is nature-related, and Gromling said there is a perfect synergy between nature and art. When looking at art, the viewer can see the beauty or the emotion that urged the artist to create the piece.
WORKSHOPS AND MORE
Gromling is branching out at his new gallery and will offer framing beginning in October. He also will have painting workshops in a variety of media, including acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc. The teachers will be some of the artists who display at the gallery and possibly other local instructors.
His art and photography workshops at Marineland will continue.
He also plans a “showing room” where people can consider a piece of art in a non-gallery setting. Decorated like a living room, it will have lighting options so customers can relax and imagine the art in their home.
Another new feature is that one of the gallery artists, Scott Heistand, will have a working studio in the gallery.
“People love to interact with the artist,” Gromling said.
A SERENDIPITOUS LIFE
Before owning an art gallery, Gromling had a publishing business. He started Ocean Publishing in 2002 on State Road A1A in Flagler Beach, and published 29 titles over the years including a book by one of Jacque Cousteau’s sons, Jean Michel Cousteau, as well as his own books.
He said people kept asking him when he was going to get something on the walls in the publishing office, and one day he ran into an artist, Rick Cannizzaro, who had a portfolio.
“I looked at his art. It was delightful,” Gromling said.
He displayed his art, ended up selling all of it in 16 months, and Ocean Art Gallery was created in 2012.
“My life has been serendipitous like that,” he said, smiling. “Things fall together.”
Cannizzaro continues to be a successful artist in the area.
“That’s part of who I am,” Gromling said. “I love helping people be successful.”
Ocean Publishing has since been sold.
Gromling is still involved in the Marineland Right Whale Project, but there have been no right whale sightings here over the past two years. The lack of sightings could be an ominous sign for the species, which only number about 450, or could be part of a natural cycle, Gromling said.
He points out that right whales have only been studied for 40 years.
“I believe nature works in cycles,” he said.