Meet Jan Miller, the award-winning artist behind the Butterfield Garage Art Gallery and one of many who helped launch St. Augustine’s monthly art walk, hosted by Art Galleries of St. Augustine. We sat down with Jan Miller to discuss her passion for art, how her style has changed over the years and her work to help grow St. Augustine’s thriving art scene.
Q: How did you find your passion for art?
A: I seem to have been born with a passion for art. As far back as I can remember I loved to draw and color. I won my first award in the 7th grade which was free tuition to the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Q: Tell us about your artistic style and how it has evolved.
A: Each artist is an individual and has a personal style as unique and personal as their own thumbprint and handwriting. As a child I was fascinated by surrealism, but as I matured I found reality is just as amazing. I painted very large realistic still lifes. As the years passed fantasy crept into my work, I painted furniture and now I mainly create mixed media sculptures using gourds, acrylic paint and found objects. These gourd characters are playful and have a humorous attitude.
Q: What drew you to St. Augustine?
A: I am from Chicago and for years I traveled south to Florida to participate in several Fine Art Fairs. The last of the season was in St. Augustine which I found to be entirely different from other places. It is not only charming and historical with an old-world background but has a ‘spirit’ that draws creative people of all kinds. I had a career as an artist for over 25 years when my husband and I moved here and opened the Jan Miller Art Gallery on Charlotte Street.
Q: What was your inspiration behind opening the unique Butterfield Garage Art Gallery and your desire to bring new artists to the public?
A: In 1998 my husband and I discovered that the Butterfield Garage building was for sale. We purchased it and began renovating it. I had experience at an art cooperative in downtown Chicago as one of the directors. With so many fine artists here in St. Augustine, it was a perfect place to have an artist-run gallery. Having already been in the art scene I knew quite a few artists. I contacted 14 of them and the enthusiasm was unanimous. Butterfield Garage Art Gallery opened in February 1999. The name of the gallery was determined by the original Butterfield neon sign, which when found and plugged in, worked! This is a gallery where an artist is encouraged to just be creative and not be driven to do tourist mementos, but to maintain a fine art exhibition space.
Q: You were involved with the creation of the popular St. Augustine First Friday Art Walks. How did that come about?
A: Years ago, when I still had the Jan Miller Gallery, a group of gallery owners and artists met and formed the Art Galleries of St. Augustine, or AGOSA. I learned about art walks in other cities across the U.S. and we discussed bringing that here. We had the perfect place. St. Augustine was small enough to walk everywhere and had plenty of artists and galleries. And so, as a group we decided to have an art walk on the first Friday of each month. This is when artists bring in new work and celebrate the arts throughout the old city and on the island. After about 25 years, the art walks are very successful and a great place to meet for the artists, residents and visitors alike.
Q: How has St. Augustine changed for the better over the last 10 years, particularly in the realm of arts and culture?
A: The arts have always been a strong component of what makes St. Augustine special. In the last 10 years the arts are stronger than ever. The St. Augustine Amphitheater has greatly influenced the musical scene, we have several theater organizations, and the art galleries and studios are throughout the area.
ARTS AND CULTURE IS THRIVING IN ST. AUGUSTINE.