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  • Tara Crutchfield

Vakti Gallery

Even with your head in the books, it would be hard not to appreciate the art on the walls of Downtown Lakeland’s independent bookstore, Pressed Books & Coffee. Each piece is the work of a local artist, presented by Vakti Gallery, an online art gallery started by Lakelander Olivia Overholt. Through the online gallery, monthly pop-up shows, and wall space at Pressed, the Vakti Gallery owner and gallery director aims to connect the community to fine art. The gallery’s mission is “To provide a space where local artists can be recognized and where the quality and power of their creations can be felt.”

Overholt was born and raised in Lakeland. After graduating from Lakeland Christian School, she attended Anderson University in South Carolina, majoring in graphic design. Overholt moved home after college at the height of the pandemic.

Though Overholt majored in graphic design, she is an artist at heart. She enjoys the hands-on, messy aspect of creating something like her woodblock prints, carved out entirely by hand. “It’s good to not stare at the screen for a while,” she laughed. The artist also has an affinity for acrylic paint and charcoal. “If my hands aren’t dirty at the end of it, it’s not worth it for me,” she said. Back home in Lakeland, she began looking for a place to sell her art but couldn’t find one.

Unable to find an accessible art scene, Overholt decided to open her own gallery – with a bit of a twist. “I was looking for a place to sell my art but couldn’t find one,” she said. “When I decided to open the gallery, I wanted to do it for other artists who needed a place to sell their art.”

She had the community in mind too. “I wanted to make sure that people who do come in – whether it’s for college or because it’s not cold here, or to be closer to the beach – whatever reason they move here, that they have an easier way of finding that art scene,” she said.

On December 1, 2020, Overholt launched her online art gallery, which she named Vakti Gallery. Of the endeavor, Overholt smiled and said, “When I was in college, I used to look at the painting majors and think they were insane because they were going to spend their whole life trying to sell art. Then I graduated, and now I’m doing the same thing.”

The gallery director spent quite a bit of time choosing a name for the digital and pop-up space to represent local artists. “I chose Vakti because it does have a root word that means something. It comes from the Sanskrit root word for ‘speech.’ I believe that all art is a way to express yourself. Even if it’s abstract and you think it doesn’t mean anything, it does. [...] I decided that all art, more than being a part of you, is what you’re saying.”

For the artist and gallery owner, Vakti in name and practice is “listening to local artists, not just using their art for decoration.”

In Vakti Gallery’s infancy, Overholt connected with her high school art teacher Kari Clever for advice. “There’s only so much I know, and I was willing to admit that,” Overholt said. She learned about sourcing artists, pricing, shipping, and other art gallery ins and outs.

One of the first to join Vakti Gallery was fine artist Seungdo Hyun. “I was super excited because he’s well known,” said Overholt. “I was very appreciative.”

Another artist early to Vakti’s digital gallery and a valuable resource for Overholt was former high school classmate, Rebekah Firmin who creates art and illustrations as Mockingbird Artist. “I was able to talk to her and use her as a resource because she has been in Lakeland selling art since before I moved back from college. It was good to find someone who does sell art and knows which avenues work and don’t work,” said the gallery director.

Vakti Gallery currently has around 150 pieces of art, photography, sculptures, and mixed media online and available for purchase. The gallery represents 22 artists, including Olivia Overholt, that are based in Central Florida from Lake Wales, Orlando, Winter Haven, Clearwater, and Lakeland. Vakti brings fine art by local artists before the community through an online gallery medium, pop-up shows, and a rotating selection of art at Pressed Books & Coffee. “It’s good here for exposure,” Overholt said of the Pressed gallery space. “The amount of people who have come up to me while I’m working and said, ‘Hey, who do I talk to about art on the walls?’ It’s been insane.”

What’s next for Vakti Gallery? “I would love to have a physical location,” said Overholt. “But in the meantime, in the next few years, the pop-up shows are fantastic. I love having them. It’s so much fun.” The next pop-up show will be on November 20 from 5-9 pm at LKLD Live, followed by a Christmas Show at a local residence on December 11 from 5-8 pm. Check the website for address details for the December show.

The next time you’re in Pressed or shopping Vakti Gallery’s website and a piece of art speaks to you, keep Vakti’s meaning in mind, and listen.

Vakti Gallery

FB @vaktigallery

IG @vaktigallery

Photograph by Amy Sexson


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