This is the part four in a series profiling Naples’ Call of Africa’s Native Visions Gallery on trendy Fifth Avenue South. Click here for part one, here for part two and here for part three of the series.
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Ownership. The galleries are owned by Ross and Kirsten Parker. President, CEO and the creative force behind the gallery, Ross Parker hails from Zimbabwe, Africa. “I came to the United States after the civil war,” Parker relates now. “I arrived with $1,275 in my pocket, put my head down, worked hard and made myself a success. I’m living the immigrant’s dream. I told a friend once that I found the Garden of Eden. It’s in America.”
In the years following his arrival on U.S. soil, Parker founded a number of companies. Four involved art, including Call of Africa, Inc. and its sister companies which own the two Native Vision galleries. “A friend suggested that I start a business that would allow me to stay in contact with my family and friends back in Zimbabwe,” Parker recalls. So he took a trip back to Zimbabwe to explore his options, and that’s when luck played a role.
“I bumped into an old friend who I’d fought with in the civil war,” Parker says. The friend was Craig Bone, a fellow artist who’d transitioned from painting battle scenes to religious themes before finally settling on native landscapes. He asked Parker to sell some of his artworks back in America, an idea echoed by a stone sculptor named Amos Marimo whom Parker found in an outdoor café. When their works were acquired by some of the world’s most prestigious museums through Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the intrepid Parker became one of the most sought-after artist agents in the country.
Parker’s burgeoning international reputation helped Call of Africa’s Native Visions go within one short year from a gallery operating out of a small garage in Plantation, Florida to quarters in Boca Raton that exhibited works by many of southern Africa’s most talented painters and sculptors. “It didn’t take long before the gallery was attracting rave reviews from collectors and local press alike,” the gallery’s website reports. “As the owners and artists became increasingly involved with conservation campaigns, the focus shifted away from what was solely African art to environmentally-themed artwork by artists from southern Africa as well as around the world.”
Parker and his wife, Kirsten, relocated the Boca Raton gallery to East Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale in 1991 and established a second gallery four years later in Key West. But ever the visionary, Parker recognized the burgeoning growth of the southwest Florida art market and decided the Key West gallery would do better on Naples’ trendy Fifth Avenue. That was 12 successful years ago.
“From the outset, I had a picture in mind of what I wanted,” Parker says thinking back to the gallery’s origins. “It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and then I had to go out and find the pieces.”