Although 2020 was not an ideal year to launch a small business, Jennifer Correa and her husband, esteemed local artist Arturo Correa, officially opened Muzyka Art Space in the Naples Design District last summer. Their debut exhibition was an impressive who’s who of influential 20th-century Latin American artists: Steel raindrops sculpted by Carlos Medina hung from the ceiling, and paintings by late Venezuelan artists including Oswaldo Vigas and Feliciano Carvallo—personal heroes of Arturo’s—lined the walls.
There were works of Arturo’s, too, including Anyone Listening Out There, the large-scale painting that still hangs behind Jennifer’s desk. “In this painting, Arturo imagines observing life from outer space,” Jennifer says, both as gallery director and her husband’s longtime manager. Abstract and political symbols appear to float alongside actual paintbrushes and toy airplanes on an expansive sky-blue canvas. The combination of painting and objects, a signature element of Arturo’s artistic language “make this a unique and very strong composition,” she adds.
Pandemic be damned, Jennifer had realized a longtime dream by opening her own gallery last year. Antonio Ascaso, Arturo’s longtime gallerist in Miami and Venezuela, provides the work—important 20th-century painters and sculptors, most of whom had never been shown in Naples—while Jennifer runs the space, a natural expansion from her role managing the business end of Arturo’s career. For the last 25 years, she’s overseen his sales as well as relationships with clients, museums and galleries. It was through him that she started to appreciate the art world and ultimately fell in love with art. Eventually, she aspired to carve out her own place in the art world.
The couple’s story began almost 30 years ago, in the community gym at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando. Young Jennifer Muzyka had come from Connecticut to study psychology, and Arturo, already set on becoming an artist, had come from Venezuela to earn his undergraduate degree in graphic design and painting. They happened to be working out on adjacent machines when they struck up a conversation. “I was on the Stairmaster and Arturo was on the stationary bicycle,” Jennifer fondly recalls. The whirlwind that followed shows the telltale signs of love at first sight: in six months they were engaged, and three years later, they were married. By then, they had moved to New York together to attend New York University, where she pursued her graduate degree in counseling and encouraged Arturo to apply for the school’s Master of Arts program.
While Jennifer credits Arturo for igniting her passion for art, Arturo credits her for the success of his career. “It hasn’t always been easy,” he says. “But she’s always pushing me to the fence.” After graduation, the events of 9/11 convinced the couple to leave New York, and after stints living in Venezuela and Miami, they arrived in Naples full time in 2011.
“If I had to give you my ABCs of a perfect career, it would be to combine my knowledge of counseling, my passion for selling and buying and my love for the arts,” Jennifer says. With all its interpersonal responsibilities—building a rapport with potential clients, offering artists guidance, liaising with museums and promoting in the press—owning a gallery happened to check all of those boxes.
In late 2019, her chance arrived when a longtime friend came to the couple with a real estate opportunity in the Naples Design District, a blooming downtown destination with high-end design studios and art galleries. In search of a space to open a hair salon, the friend had found a pair of storefronts that had been joined together as a single, too-large space. When she asked Jennifer if she’d like to buy half and help build a wall between their two businesses, she enthusiastically said yes.
With a space secured, the couple turned to Arturo’s longtime art dealer Antonio Ascaso to provide work to show. The couple’s proposal was simple. “The idea was to build a little bridge between the west and east coasts of Florida,” Arturo says. They would present work from Ascaso’s enormous Miami gallery to Naples’ growing population, where transplants would need art to fill their new homes. Ascaso, who’s long considered the couple like family, was all in.
During a solo exhibition of Arturo’s at the Ascaso Gallery location in Caracas, Venezuela, “Jennifer was in the gallery from open until close, eagerly helping with all aspects of the show,” Ascaso recalls. “She has a strong desire to learn new things and a passion for relating to others, all ingredients that make a successful gallerist.”
Although Jennifer and Arturo were ready to open Muzyka in the spring 2020, the coronavirus pandemic effectively upended their plans. Undeterred, they opened in the summer, albeit without the normal fanfare of a gallery opening. Rather than lively receptions and lavish gallery dinners, they’ve been communicating with their clients via email, and hosting viewings by appointment, one or two collectors at time. In December, they hosted an official opening exhibition, From the Vault of the Ascaso Collection.
Adapting to the realities of a growing pandemic, the couple remains energized and enthusiastic about the gallery’s future. “If the sales come, they come,” Jennifer says. But it’s moments like these that remind her what she loves about art in the first place. In the peaceful space of her gallery, she says, “I just want people to come and appreciate the art, and get their minds off the craziness that’s going on right now.”