Thomas Merton famously said that “art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” A painting, sculpture or photograph can take the viewer to a place far away, without taking a step. Locally, people such as Terry and Bob Edwards, Reagan and Danny Geschardt and Peggy Ann embody the sentiment. All of them use art to create oases that feed their souls. And while they share the passion, each one’s approach is unique. Take a cue from these aficionados’ playbooks for a more artful life.
The eclectic collector
Living in Lake Park’s iconic Butterfly House comes with some lofty expectations. And homeowner, Peggy Ann, does not disappoint. The Milwaukee native, who lovingly rebuilt the inverted-roof house two years ago, has used her keen eye for design to create a home that not only showcases her love for art in all forms, but also stands as a cohesive gallery. All of the works—from paintings to sculptures to furnishings—are layered to create an artistic environment.
“When I do an interior design for friends, the first thing I do is take photos and measurements of their art,” Ann says. “Every part of the design gets worked around the art. I’ll have floor plans for the art.” In her own home, she had a hallway converted into a gallery to display pieces, nooks created to hold smaller works and lighting intentionally designed to illuminate every piece in just the right way.
She takes it that seriously. And yet, the home is wonderfully whimsical and engaging. Ann even has artwork inside of her refrigerator: a framed postcard featuring a sardine, a lime green bird sculpture and an antique door stop. “It makes people smile,” she says. “I normally have more, but with the virus, I’ve exchanged art for food.”
Ann received her first piece of art at age 16. It was a watercolor painting of Ann, a birthday gift from her first love whose mother was the artist. “I just loved it,” she says. “Shortly after that, I decided that my goal in life was to become an artist in Paris. That was my dream.”
Many years later, she designed her then-condo in Naples into what many said felt like a Parisian pied-à-terre. But locally (she also has a 6,500-square-foot Milwaukee penthouse, known as the Gallery in the Sky), her artistic taste is best highlighted by her current home, which is filled with works by photographers, such as Greg Davis, and paintings and mixed-media by Naples’ own John Carroll Long.
Her purchases come from the heart and occur when something speaks to her. “There was one purchase that I wanted to make,” Ann says. “It was a small sculpture, and I loved it. It was $2,500, and at that point in my life I thought, ‘I don’t think I can do that.’ Well, the image of that sculpture is still in my head. It has bothered me for 25 years now.”
She had a similar experience years later when she saw a Greg Davis’ photograph, The Pilgrim, at an art exhibition for $2,000. Instead of purchasing it, she bought a cheaper image that she
liked. It also bothered her for years. And when she finally moved into the Butterfly House, she decided to call Davis and see if any of the limited run of 10 were still available. One was—for $15,000. “I’ve learned, if it really moves me, I should just buy it and figure something out later,” Ann says.
It seems she’s figured out a lot since those early days. From her intricate sculptures by Theodore Gall to the metal origami-like sculptures by Jordan Waraksa and furnishings by Roche Bobois, there is something to delight at every turn.
And, if you’re wondering, Ann did eventually make it to Paris as an artist. She was accepted into a selective photography workshop there taught by famed photojournalist Peter Turnley.
Clearly, with art, all things are possible.
Terry and Bob Edwards
The Contemporary Couple
Terry and Bob Edwards met in an art gallery, got married in front of Rancho Santa Fe Heart, a large painting and collage work by Jim Dine (the piece hangs prominently in their Naples home) and have spent a great deal of their adult lives in the art world.
Terry was an art museum docent and director of an art gallery over the course of her career. Bob began his collection with a varied mix, including Victorian paintings, Toulouse-Lautrec posters and etchings by 15th century painter Albrecht Dürer. In the ’90s, upon meeting a New York City art dealer who moved to Naples, Bob shifted his focus to the modern and contemporary masters the couple has become well known for collecting. “This dealer was all about Andy Warhol, Sam Francis, (Joan) Miro and (Marc) Chagall,” Bob says. “He wasn’t just bringing in prints; he was bringing in original paintings. It was a stunning thing to see in Naples, which was then a small town, known for its Midwestern roots. Here was this guy bringing in some of the best art you could imagine. I saw a Warhol piece of Elvis that I later saw sell at auction for more than $50 million… I’ll never forget the path that he opened for me.”
That path eventually became akin to a super highway. The couple purchased the home they live in precisely as a backdrop for the works they cherish, such as sculptor Boaz Vaadia’s figures Ammi’el and Amaryahu, Robert Rauschenberg’s windmill-like Eco-Echo, and the 8-foot glass spears by Dale Chihuly that stand like horticultural plantings in their living room.
“We saw the house had lots of walls for hanging,” Terry says. “And even though we were going to try to be more minimal, somehow there was always something else that we could squeeze in.”
Along the way, the couple developed a keen affinity for sculptures—especially outdoor works, like the John Henry Tequila Sunrise and Philip Jackson Il Grandi, which grace the grounds.
The sculptures are fairly unique to Naples. The couple was close with Olga Hirshhorn, the late Naples resident who was also a world-class collector (her husband, Joe, created the famed Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in D.C.). “It started with little things, a small Warhol piece, a Picasso ceramic, and then we began to meet more people in that space—the sculptors themselves,” Bob says. “The next thing I know, I was buying lots of sculptures and people were noticing. I ended up on the International Sculpture Center (ISC) board, and the Sculpture magazine board.” They eventually began having artists visit, and Bob even chaired the ISC’s Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for six years.
These days, the couple has so much art that they’re planning to create a rotating exhibition space at Edwards Asset Management’s expansive offices.
“It is a source of joy for us as a couple. We love traveling and going to museums and galleries and constantly learning more about art,” Terry says. “It’s also been the source of some wonderful friendships.”
Reagan and Danny Geschardt
The abstract artists
Artists Reagan and Danny Geschardt are as bright, colorful and full of life as the pieces they create. Their work is vibrant and energetic, fresh yet relatable. The two create independently, but maintain an analogous style of primarily colorful abstracts.
Having moved to Naples from New Jersey with their two young daughters last summer, the couple live in a rented home surrounded by the art they make. “It’s a bit of a showroom for us,” Danny says. “It’s how we live—our home is filled with our art, and it’s really always been like that.”
When he says their home is a showroom, Danny isn’t exaggerating. The space features everything from small 5-by-7 inch paintings on shelves to large-scale pieces more than 8 feet across.
Chances are, you’ll even find a few pieces in the closets, although those creations are on hangers. The Geschardts not only make works on canvas, they also use their artistic styles to design fabrics, wallpaper and clothing in their signature panache. Through their company, Broome Street Studios, they also sell vintage furniture that is often painted in a vibrant color or soft pastel. “Ninety percent of everything in our house is our stuff,” Danny says, referring to the art. “We try to sell it off the walls,” Reagan adds, with a laugh.
Though they have a studio in town, since the pandemic, Reagan has taken to setting up an easel at the house and painting there. This raises an interesting question: What’s it like living with art and children?
“When they were really little, they would literally climb on my back as I’d be painting,” Reagan says. “Then they’d want to paint and I would set up a whole table for them. I’d look over and see my little redhead in paint from head to toe. It’s always been a part of them.”
When pieces are sold off the walls, the kids tend to get upset; the girls—Josie, 13, and Juliette, 11— feel ownership over the art. “When a client comes over and buys a piece, the kids will come out and ask what is happening,” Danny says. “And we’ll say ‘Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So are buying this painting …’ and the kids will go ‘Noooooooo!’”
But, the couple doesn’t worry about the safety of the art at their daughters’ hands. “It’s funny, we’ll have clients say they want to hang something higher because they have kids,” Reagan says. “Or they won’t buy a nude because they ‘have boys.’ And we’re like, ‘What?’” Danny recalls a floor-to-ceiling piece that hung in their former home. It never got a scratch.
The takeaway? Introduce kids to art, and do it early.