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St. Pete artist from China uses universal language of art to connect with community

The owner of Grounded Gallery says everyone can feel and understand art.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — The Tampa Bay area has a growing art community. Artists from all across the world are showcasing their talents here using art — the universal language — and their creativity to connect and communicate with others.

"When I find these things, I may not understand it. But I will find out the cause of these problems and then I will put them in my paintings," said Hao Penghe, the owner of Grounded Gallery.

Penghe moved to St. Petersburg in 2019 from his hometown of Liaoning in China. He attended Dalian Polytechnic University and graduated from the school of art and design in 2017.

"When I first came to the United States, I didn't know anyone or have anything," Penghe said. "So, I did anything to start from the ground. So, later, I said, OK, maybe I can use this word for my studio name and gallery name. So, I just called it 'Grounded Gallery.'"

Credit: Rickey Kim

Penghe started Grounded Gallery almost there years ago. It’s located at The Factory St. Pete in South St. Petersburg — creative destination for artists like Penghe, to showcase their art to the public.

Most of the ideas and inspiration that Penghe has comes from his life, focusing on the different people and situations around him and sketches them in his sketchbook. 

"I am a very, very sensitive person," Penghe said. "So, I always catch something and when I catch something, I can write in my phone."

A majority of the paintings in "Grounded Gallery" were originally once small sketches. Going back into sketchbooks which date back to 2017, he can recall the emotions he felt that specific day and he will turn that memory into a painting on a canvas.

Another inspiration he uses for his art is not necessarily a specific subject, but a quote that his college roommate told him.

"Many, many pain make a smile."

Penghe says that he would like to say thank you to his friend Yang Gong Tan, for telling that. The quote is the core support of his art.

Credit: Hao Penghe
Hao Penghe and his friend, Yang Gong Tan

"I know this sentence is not art, but for me, this is art," Penghe said. "Art is like magical. It can make everyone different and make everyone use the same power to do something."

Penghe didn’t have the intention to teach art when moving to the bay area. But his passion for art and helping the general public to understand him and his message shifted over to guiding people to be able to express their own message. Part of having a gallery and studio was having space available for him and his students.

He offers a range of sessions from open art public, live model, private drawing and even painting parties.

“Every student learns differently,” Penghe said. “Because every time I teach a student, I am not only speaking, I need to show them how to do that.”

Penghe says that he has multiple sketchbooks of different variations of the same object. Each student may have a question that will be different from another student. So, he will show them the technique from the beginning resulting in him sketching more than 100 times.

“I’m really proud of me and my students,” Penghe said.

Since moving to St. Petersburg, Penghe says that he's happy and enjoying the art community because of how diverse the artists and art are here. The communication he has with each artist shows that the community just wants each artist to be better.

Credit: Rickey Kim

With art being a universal language, he says that people can understand art because art is not just one answer.

"I want everyone to understand something but that doesn't mean you need to understand the same," Penghe said. "You can understand here, or you can understand here."

He says that everyone can see and feel art.

Credit: Rickey Kim

Grounded Gallery is located at 2630 Fairfield Ave. S., at The Factory in St. Pete. Follow its Instagram for updates on student work, events and more.

Editor's note: Chinese and English translation by Calvin Chen and Hao Penghe.

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