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Former basketball star founds new gallery in South End

From court to canvas, William Antonio keeps dribbling

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Basketball players have a kind of athletic elegance — their tall, muscular forms granting dynamic moves across the court, while keen senses allow for the precision needed to shoot hoops accurately.

At 6'4", it's not surprising to learn William Antonio is a former basketball player. For 15 years, he belonged to the Philippine Basketball Association, after graduating from Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii. But there is nothing sporty about his current endeavors here in the Q.C. While he's no longer dribbling balls, his hands are busy and firmly planted with a paintbrush, which dribbles in a different kind of way.

After retiring as an athlete, he and his wife, Ana, moved to Charlotte where they have family ties. A month ago, the couple opened The Gallery in South End.

William and Ana Antonio (Photo by Anita Overcash)
  • William and Ana Antonio (Photo by Anita Overcash)

Currently thought of as one of Charlotte's artsiest neighborhoods, the district is one of many in flux due to a rise in development. New locations for the neighborhood's popular Food Truck Fridays, held steadily at Camden and Park Roads, are slated for spring of 2016. Common Market and, most recently, The Boulevard at South End are among locally owned businesses that have been priced out of the area.

That being said, The Gallery, located at 1320 South Church Street, is a refreshing shift to the ongoing squandering due to buildup.

Antonio welcomes the expansion, as his business is currently benefitting from it. "It's a great location because people want paintings for their new homes," Antonio says. "I've sold close to about 40 paintings already. People moving in the area are looking for art."

Other longtime South End galleries like Charlotte Art League, Lark & Key Gallery & Boutique, Hidell Brooks Gallery, Ciel Gallery and Elder Gallery are just a few blocks from The Gallery.

Formerly housing office spaces for different businesses, the couple hired contractors to gut the interiors and install a kitchen and counters. The walls have been painted white with some patchy, rustic exposed bricks. Along those walls you'll find large abstract paintings by Antonio. Most of them are bright with bold colors and textured layers that correlate with one another despite warm and cool tones.

Antonio, who painted regularly with his grandmother as a child, began painting professionally during his 10th year of playing basketball in the Philippines. He started out painting florals in his time off the court and quickly began selling them and drawing media attention.

"They [teammates] would tease me, especially when I went on TV one time for a talk show and I had brought some of my floral paintings. They came to practice the next day like 'What? Flowers?,'" Antonio says. "So, I got all the locker room teasing, but I was already a veteran at the time so I've been through it and could handle it."

During his time in the Philippines, he was commissioned to complete more than 80 paintings to hang in rooms within a resort.

"Basketball taught me how to be disciplined because you had to go to practice everyday. I think in 15 years I only missed three practices. I would get injured over those years, but I would always go to practice if I could," Antonio says. "You have to have discipline because if you're late for a practice you get fined. You might have to buy everybody on the team lunch and that adds up, so you don't want to be late. The basketball taught me the discipline I needed to be able to do projects."

I think if I hadn't had that basketball experience, it [the resort's commission] would have been too much," Antonio says. "I would have only been able to handle just a small amount. It was a challenge, but also a fun experience."

While Antonio has since strayed from florals and ventured into a more abstract terrain, he continues to look to nature for inspiration.

"A lot of times I look at sunsets and I look at nature in general. Sometimes I'll be walking down the street and I'll see cracks in the road and that will introduce new ideas," he says. "As an abstract artist I want to come up with different ways to take ideas from nature and apply them to putting paint on canvas to create an effect. I'm not going out of my way to do anything different from anybody else. I'm just going with the flow."

While you're at The Gallery...

Don't miss overindulging in dessert. The menu features pastries and cakes, including the tasty Lady M Mille Crepe Cake from Lady M Confections, based in New York City. Antonio's brother-in-law runs the business, which ships the subtly sweet, creamy and layered delicacies across the country. Try the original or go more exotic with green tea version.

Lady M Mille Crepe Cakes (green tea and traditional) at The Gallery
  • Lady M Mille Crepe Cakes (green tea and traditional) at The Gallery

Ana Antonio, who has a background in fashion, marketing and events, curates the dining experience. She's added personal touches, influenced by her love of entertaining, to the menu. You'll find cheese boards and sandwiches. Coffee, craft beer and wine is also available.

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