Entrance to The Exchange on University Ave
Although The Exchange may not become a legendary nightlife-icon in Gainesville, there are too many good things happening there to exclude it from a possible night-out visit. It is the brainchild of Gainesville artist Roberto Evans who owns and staffs the shop; it’s only been open for a few months and exists to bring out the creativity of Gainesville, and serves multi-purpose functions as gallery/art shop, art school, independent clothes store, live music venue, and community meeting space.
The art on the walls at The Exchange is in a dynamic cycle—changing regularly. Evans usually has some of his own pieces up, but there is always at least one, often several, other artists showing. Thus far, all of the art shows have been unique and progressive in terms of the Gainesville art scene, i.e., there has not been a Florida landscape show yet (though, if there were, it would probably be fascinating due to a unique twist of some kind). The opening event at The Exchange was a Valentine’s Day-themed show entitled “I Love You, Dear Monster.” It brought together about a half-dozen local artists to create pieces which depicted various monsters in “love.” Among the pieces were paintings of screenshots from the movie Young Frankenstein and images of insect-looking monsters taking their dates to prom. It was an incredible show that set the bar quite high for future events, and the Exchange continues to exceed expectations as each of its gallery openings maintain a perfect balance of a laid-back, friendly atmosphere mixed with a classy audience that is serious about art.
In keeping with its high standard of event quality, on select evenings The Exchange converts itself to a live music venue. A recent show featured Gainesville favorites Paxico Via Mexico, DC-based Andy Zipf, Tallahassee band Maida Vale, and Roberto himself playing a few tunes to open the evening. Six dollars brought passers-by in the door where they experienced the best show in Gainesville that night and happily enjoyed a surprisingly well-chosen beverage selection (tasty NA selections, Sam Adams Oktoberfest for 2 bucks, and others!). Often the local-non profit known for putting on superior, art-based events, Society Promotions, assists Evans with these shows.
As excellent as The Exchange is during the evening, it’s daytime offerings are certainly just as pleasing. Roberto places a high value on offering affordable art, so while there may be some high-priced pieces, there are always some more affordable options as well. Also, visitors can swing by to pick up some TOMS shoes (the only place that sells them in Gainesville); with every pair purchased, TOMS gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need, and for a small fee Roberto will customize your TOMS to make them one-of-a-kind. The shop also sells Threadless tee shirts, other clothing items, and various other art items like zines, comic books, cards, buttons, and coasters.