Jacksonville gallery owner sees art as a messenger for hope and healing

When Jacob Danner was a clergyman, he traveled all over the world.

His work, first as a priest with the Charismatic Episcopal Church, then as a bishop with the Evangelical Episcopal Church, took him to South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, along with many places in North America.

For 15 years, starting in the late 1990s, Danner shared messages of hope, healing and redemption.

His travels also allowed him to do something else close to his heart: acquire art — here and there, piece by piece, until it began to resemble a collection.

And then he began selling what he had.

Now the owner of Anazao Galleries in Avondale, Danner can trace his brick-and-mortar operation back to a time when he had a gallery that existed "only where I would speak," he said.

He established that first gallery as a nonprofit in 2000, named it Sacred Art Ministries, and typically presented artwork at fundraisers, conferences and other events associated with the Church of the Messiah in Arlington. The church was the Southeast Diocese headquarters for the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

Danner left Jacksonville for Virginia in 2003 — his work with the ministries "took me to Washington so many times during those three years that I decided to move there," he said.

He dissolved Sacred Art Ministries in 2006 as he resumed an earlier career in construction management, supervising numerous projects for Fortune 50 companies in Washington.

But his spiritual commitment remained strong. Danner joined the Evangelical Episcopal Church in 2008, becoming a bishop and spending much of his time mentoring priests. He continued in that role until 2013, when he moved back to Jacksonville for family reasons.

Last year, he decided he wanted to open an art gallery and in February, Anazao Galleries had its grand opening.

The space features works he has collected during his travels, along with other items, including antiques and wearable art such as sustainable jewelry and handcrafted scarves and dresses from couture designers. He chose to use "galleries" in the name because of the diversity of offerings.

HOPEFUL MESSAGES

"Anazao" is a Greek word meaning "come to life again," Danner said. "It's about renewal and recovery."

He chose it to convey the hopeful, healing and redemptive messages that can be found in art.

"All of the art here reflects my world view," he said. Danner has an appreciation for creativity and beauty, and from his perspective, "God was the first artist."

The result of His work is "an extravaganza of beauty," natural and man-made, he said.

Danner "started buying what I liked" when he first began acquiring artwork with the idea of selling it, he said. "I bought what I found to be meaningful and beautiful, thinking, 'If I don't sell it, I'm going to have to live with it.' "

He also "bought wisely," he said. "I put all my money back into buying the next grade of art."

Danner uses the term "classical realism" to describe most of the paintings, sculptures and glass collections at Anazao.

"There's nothing really contemporary or abstract. I believe in the clarity of the story."

GLOBETROTTING PRIEST

Danner, 60, was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and moved to Jacksonville with his family in 1968.

His father was a machinist, but Danner had an interest in wood, and fondly recalled taking woodshop class at what was then Lake Shore Junior High School. (He had already bought his first "work of art" by then, an antique credenza.)

He was raised Catholic, but at 17, Danner "moved away from Catholicism" toward Evangelicalism. A member of the first graduating class (1974) at Ed White High School, Danner subsequently left Jacksonville to attend a bible school in upstate New York. He paid for his tuition by building furniture for the school.

After about a year there, he followed the dean of the school to Allentown, Pa., to become an assistant pastor and music minister (Danner plays the guitar). A year later, he went to work for a contractor, restoring Victorian townhouses, then got a job at Eisenhardt Mills in Easton, Pa., where he worked with master carpenters.

His hands stayed busy. When he moved to Long Island, N.Y., he began doing high-end residential remodeling in New York, and making custom-built furniture.

In 1985, Danner came back to Jacksonville, working as a carpenter on commercial and residential projects. In 1986, he got his contractor's license. He did construction management for several prominent real estate developers in Northeast Florida, and there were also periods when he worked for himself.

In his years as a construction manager, Danner built more than 300 homes in Jacksonville.

His spiritual interests also kept him busy. For years, he was involved with the annual production of "The Giver of Life," a musical drama about the life of Jesus presented by the Southside Assembly of God. As the show's popularity grew, it moved from the Florida Theatre to the Civic Auditorium (now the Times-Union Center).

In 1996, Danner went into the ministry full-time, and his years as a globe-trotting priest soon followed.

Danner owns all the artwork in the gallery. The setup is not typical. More often, art galleries exhibit works owned by others. His business model is influenced in part by his desire for the piece to express his world view.

There are hundreds of items on display at any given time, but Danner has no problem identifying his favorite: a hand-carved bust of Christ that he acquired in the Philippines about a dozen years ago. It was created in the 19th century, during the Spanish Colonial Era, and the artist is unknown.

The sculpture was too big to place in the overhead compartment of the plane on his return flight to the United States. And it was too precious to Danner for him to check it and risk losing it.

After a lengthy back-and-forth with the airline, he was allowed to put the bust on his lap for the duration of the flight.

"It's one of those pieces where, no matter where you are in the room, he's always looking at you," he said. It shows the simplicity of suffering.

"If you look into his eyes, you see the sorrows he carried."

David Crumpler: (904) 359-4164


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