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Among my Tribe in Sanford

by Cherie Dacko

Cherie Dacko


With 25 plus years in portrait, commercial and antique photo restoration, the Cherie has developed award-winning skills for creating images of the human form. In 2007, she rented studio space in the historic district of Sanford, Florida and began painting full time. About 200 paintings later, Dacko’s style evolved into a unique style of portraiture she describes as “Bent Realism.” The subjects are familiar but the distortion will challenge your comfort level.

Dacko currently divides her time between working in a public studio in Gallery on First and creating more involved pieces in a private studio. Her distinctive style has garnered a loyal following ranging in ages 9 to 90. Cherie’s work is in collections throughout the United States , Canada and France, including that of Stephen Colbert, political satirist.

You can reach her and view her Bent Realism via her website:

Stroll the sidewalks any time during the day or night in historic downtown Sanford, Florida, and you are likely to cross paths with a nationally known artist. Filmmakers, sculptors, musicians, photographers, folk artists, writers and painters are all drawn to this waterfront community for its live-and-let-live vibe. Galleries and antique shops polka-dot the main street. I have a studio in the historic district, and have worked, taught classes and sold my work there for the past 6 years.

This is my tribe. I am surrounded by kindred spirits and a community where the arts are encouraged, supported and funded.

Sanford achieved fame early in the late 1800’s when it was hailed as the “Celery Capitol of the World,” because of its ideal conditions for growing the crop. Sanford postured itself to become a major port along the St. John’s River.  Sadly, after enduring repeated hard freezes, the celery and citrus industry slowly died back, along with any hope of an infusion of wealth. Racial inequality and segregation eroded the sense of community.

The downtown district has ebbed and flowed in past years. In the past 10 years there has been great renewed interest and investment in the historic properties downtown and in the local neighborhoods. Jeanine Taylor Folk Art, Gallery on First, and Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Restaurant  are just three of the “anchor businesses” that are thriving downtown in what is known as the “Cultural Corridor.”

“Celery Soup,” a community play based on old Sanford oral histories and a film festival called “Love Your Shorts” are two of Sanford’s annual offerings. Halloween and fall celebrations, parades, monthly street festivals and gallery walks, St. John’s River Arts Festival, sidewalk pianos, masquerade and pirate themed fundraisers…the list goes on and on.

I have been involved with Gallery on First nearly from its inception. Although I live in Longwood, I work from a private studio in the old Hotchkiss building on First Street in Sanford, which houses Gallery on First and Jeanine Taylor Folk Art gallery. My collectors range from age 9 to 90 and I appreciate the Sanford community for inspiring and supporting my efforts as an artist.

You can see Cherie’s work at or contact her at

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