Saltwater Portrait

Tony Fisher: From the Gulf to the arts

October 9, 2012

It’s hard to find two more different worlds than the chaos of the early-1990s Persian Gulf region and the serene atmosphere of the Rehoboth Art League campus.

But new art league Gallery Manager Tony Fisher knows both.

Enthusiastic and personable, Fisher started working for the art league in August, just before the annual outdoor show. As gallery manager, Fisher sets up shows and keeps things fresh for the 16,000 people that visit annually.

Fisher is transitioning the gallery from September’s juried show – pieces that are judged by the art league’s exhibitions committee – and October’s collage show, which opened Oct. 5. Fisher's desk is tidy, right there to greet those that walk through the door. Art is all around him, on the walls and on his desk.

Fisher oversees hundreds of pieces of art and helps expose art league artists to a wider audience, but Fisher himself is not an artist.

“I’m an art enthusiast; I’m not an artist,” he said. “I just have an appreciation for art. I love creative people, whether it's art or writing. I just enjoy people who are talented.”

Fisher’s love is for animals, including his two dachunds, Holly and Angel. He has also worked on behalf of animal rights groups, rescuing dogs and cats and helping place them in better homes.

“I'm more of an animal advocate than an animal-rights person,” Fisher said.

Fisher, polite and youthful-looking, has worked for charities and nonprofits, so the art league position was immediately attractive.

“I was really excited about the position. It seemed like a great fit for my skills and talents and what the needs of the league are,” he said.

Of the art league itself, Fisher said, “I love it. I love the setting. Come on, I come from Philly, the concrete jungle.”

Originally from Tennessee, Fisher has spent much of his adult life in Philadelphia, first in the Navy and then at LaSalle University.

Fisher said he joined the Navy more for the adventure than the job.

“I joined the Navy because I wanted to see the world, and joining the Navy was the best way for me to see a large portion of the globe in the least amount of time.  Of course, that was during peacetime and pre-9/11.  Today the world is very different, and I'm not sure folks join the military just to see the world,” he said.

In the Navy, Fisher was stationed in Iraq before the first Persian Gulf conflict in 1991. His ship had already been stationed in the Gulf Region for six months before the war broke out.

"Once Iraq invaded Kuwait, we kind of hightailed it out and came back to the states because we had been there for a long time already,” he said.

Fisher said he wasn’t nervous in the days leading up to the war, even though his ship was on high alert until they left the region.

“I was a ship's mechanic, and my primary job while on ship was turning saltwater to fresh water using steam-operated evaporation units.  Needless to say, I thought that was the most important job on the ship, because if it weren't for me, there would be no water to drink or to bathe with,” he said.

He began taking classes at LaSalle before leaving the Navy.

“I was ready to grow some roots and settle down,” Fisher said. “I really liked the area.”

Fisher’s family still lives in Tennessee, although he considers himself more of an East Coast type. Although he has southern roots, he does not have an accent. Despite the differences between where he grew up and where he is now, Fisher said as he gets older, he sees more similarities.

“Everyone just does their own thing. Trying to make the world a better place,” Fisher said.


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