Bronze King­dom rules anew at art shop

African gallery grows into Or­lando Fash­ion Square mall space

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Trevor Fraser Staff Writer tfraser@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

Or­lando fans of African and mul­ti­cul­tural art have a new lo­ca­tion to explore. Bronze King­dom, formerly lo­cated off McCoy Road, has moved to the Or­lando Fash­ion Square mall. The gallery fo­cused pri­mar­ily on African sculp­tures and art has taken over the space formerly oc­cu­pied by The Lim­ited near the mall’s north en­trance.

Owner Rawl­van Ben­nett noted sev­eral ben­e­fits to his new digs.

“It’s got all this great light­ing; it’s got more space than we have,” he said. “One of the things that we have now is all of this won­der­ful win­dow space.”

Guenet Git­tens-Roberts, CEO of GGR Mar­ket­ing in the mall, en­cour­aged the move af­ter she vis­ited the more re­mote orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion.

“I live in Or­lando and I had trou­ble ex­plain­ing to peo­ple where it was,” she said.

Her com­pany fo­cuses on mul­ti­cul­tural events mar­ket­ing. She felt Or­lando Fash­ion Square would be a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment for the gallery.

“[The mall own­ers] are ac­cept­ing of cre­ative peo­ple and they want those peo­ple in there,” she said. “Or­lando Fash­ion Square mall is the hub of the com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing it.”

The en­try­way to Bronze King­dom is a red-car­pet walk­way, lined with art and lead­ing to a large statue. The in­tent, Ben­nett ex­plained, is to mimic the feel­ing of en­ter­ing an African palace.

He has spread out in his new store, though he has used and re­pur­posed many of the orig­i­nal fix­tures. Dressing rooms and shelv­ing units house in­di­vid­ual stat­ues. Walls of studs that once hung small ac­ces­sories now hold paint­ings by con­tem­po­rary African and African-Amer­i­can painters.

“If you have the op­por­tu­nity to look at some­thing with a dif­fer­ent eye, what I saw was the shelv­ing be­ing trans­formed into hold­ing the large pieces of African bronze,” Ben­nett said. “I tried to keep within the lay­out that was al­ready in the build­ing, but to adapt it to what we needed. We’re re­ally ex­cited with how it turned out.”

One set of dressing rooms has been turned into a sit­ting room where buy­ers can spend time ex­am­in­ing pieces they are con­sid­er­ing. Stat­ues and pieces range in price from a cou­ple ofhun­dred dol­lars to tens of thou­sands.

For cus­tomers of more mod­est means, Ben­nett has added a gift shop with pieces by some of the same ar­ti­sans start­ing around $20. “Many peo­ple wanted to find a way to take Africa home with them,” he said.

He also plans to add a the­ater in the back which will play a short film about the col­lec­tion and some of the work that’s in­cluded.

The store’s grand open­ing is to­day. For de­tails, visit bronze king­dom.com.

JA­COB LANGSTON/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The works at Bronze King­dom, such as these stat­ues, range in price from a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars to tens of thou­sands. The store’s grand open­ing at Or­lando Fash­ion Square mall is to­day.

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