THOMASVILLE — The scent of jerk chicken and sweet pineapple wafted through the air on Tuesday night as exhibiting artist John Gleason dished out a typical Caribbean meal for art viewers to nosh on, as his new exhibit the Florida Landscapes opened up at the Thomasville Center for the Arts.

The exhibit features oil and acrylic paintings that boast views from the Red Hills region to Florida’s forgotten coast, depicting life in the South as a timeless, yet ever-evolving region.

Artist Programs Director Sam McCoy said she was still fairly new to the Thomasville area when she met Gleason and his wife, Irene, who were longtime supporters of the Center for the Arts.

“I knew John was a fantastic artist who has many bodies of work that spans over many diverse subjects as well,” McCoy said.

While speaking with Gleason about his work, McCoy learned about his newest body of work, a traveling exhibit featuring the Florida landscape.

McCoy thought Gleason’s artwork would be perfect to bring to the Center for the Arts, especially considering Gleason was a local, who would attract numerous supporters and friends.

Hundreds of individuals turned out on Tuesday to share in their excitement with Gleason.

“It’s a big turnout, especially when we have local artists coming in,” McCoy said. “John and Irene are such champions for our nonprofits and city, so I think they have a lot of fans.”

While the evening was focused on Gleason’s exhibit opening, it was also an opportunity for everyone in attendance to meet the Center for the Arts’ new director, Erin Wolfe Bell, who hails from Naples, Florida, and was thrilled to see a familiar landscape.

“I just think it was a great turnout and people were also excited to meet our new director on only her second day,” McCoy said.

As attendees mingled observing the artwork and meeting Bell, Gleason took to the flattop grill, serving up some Floridian favorites, including shrimp, chowder, and even goat.

“John’s work speaks for itself with the coastlines and oil renderings, but he is an amazing cook, so he is grilling dishes to accompany his work,” McCoy said.

McCoy said the pairing is something unique to Gleason’s show, as the Center typically provides a wine and cheese board for exhibits, but on occasions, they’ll partner with local downtown restaurants.

“This is definitely unusual to have a full meal and rum punch, but we are definitely happy about that,” she said.

Guests enjoyed Gleason’s Floridian fare, as McCoy encouraged those not in attendance to view the exhibition any time. Gleason’s work will be on display through April and is free for the public’s viewing. McCoy said the Center for the Arts is open Tuesday-Friday until 5 p.m., in addition to Thomasville’s Second Saturdays. All artwork on display is for purchase.

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