PROFILE: Matt Gutman

September 24, 2021
By T Michele Walker

Matt Gutman misses the fall northern weather, loves the Finger Lakes, and is suspicious of alligators. He’s also the newest member of the Boca Beacon family.

“I think it’s fall that I miss the most. In Ithaca, there are a lot of waterfalls and a lot of people that go swimming in the lake. I kind of miss that, not having to worry about an alligator creeping up on you and biting you. I don’t step foot in freshwater around here.”

When our art director for Gasparilla Island Magazine Christine Cunningham decided to move to Massachusetts, Matt was hired to fill her award-winning shoes. “When Christine made her move, she thought of me, which was nice of her. Because of Christine, they reached out to me and I’m so grateful.”

Fall weather, Finger Lakes and gator-phobias aside, Matt doesn’t see himself returning to the Pennsylvania, New York region any time soon. “I like Boca Grande a lot,” Matt explained. “It’s quaint, the food’s good, people are nice and it’s a place where everybody knows your name.”

Born and raised in Cooperstown, New York, Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Matt attended high school in Troy, New York. The second oldest of six siblings, Matt lived in Ithaca, New York in the Finger Lake region before his move to Florida. “Ithaca’s a super progressive town, a college town, so lots of stuff to do, music, concerts; it was fun. I was 21 when I moved there.”

Matt gravitated towards drawing at a young age and would spend time painting and drawing.

“I was always interested in the arts when I was young. Art was my favorite class. I took a liking to ceramics in high school, and I wanted to continue to pursue something like that, but I never followed through with it. But it’s never too late to pick something back up again. I think Englewood has something where they offer a pottery class where you spin on the wheel.”

After attending college in La Plume, Pennsylvania, a bedroom community just outside of Scranton, Matt had experienced his fill of cold weather and felt a change was in order. “It just wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the direction, so I went for a year but felt like I just wasted $15,000.”

With no family in the state of Florida, Matt made the bold decision to move to where the weather is warm. “It was winter, and I decided to move to warmer weather. I stayed with a friend in Arcadia and then never went back.”

Arcadia was lovely, but Matt craved a bit more action. “I enjoyed Arcadia, but it got to the point where I needed to do something different. So, I ended up in Port Charlotte, which isn’t far from Arcadia. I met my roommate and I ended up just moving to Port Charlotte. I have a house now, so I’m kind of settled, which is nice.”

Matt attended Charlotte Technical College (CTC) in Port Charlotte to get certified in the Adobe programs. “I didn’t have any background as far as graphic design, at least on paper you. So I did that program at CTC. It’s a one-year program, 2019 to 2020, right before COVID-19 hit, and finished up the program at home that year.”

It was through CTC that Matt came to the Boca Beacon. “During the end of the first semester at CTC, we had options to do an internship somewhere, and I picked the Boca Beacon. I wanted to get into magazine work, because of the photography, just to get my name out there. That was 2020, literally the first week of 2020 was my last week.”

Then came the pandemic. “COVID hit and then I didn’t get to intern anywhere else for the second time, which was unfortunate. I just went back to school.”

Matt was hungry to make a name for himself in his new field. “I was 33 years old and had been working in the restaurant industry for forever. I was just sick of it, and was disappointed that COVID screwed everything up, but you know, things worked out in the end.”

Grateful for what he’s learned at the Boca Beacon thus far, Matt value the guidance he’s received. “I appreciated listening to Christine and having her give me direction and giving me different input on how layouts go and things like; proper editing tools and the things that I’ve learned. I took a liking to this.”

As he starts to hit his stride, Matt is excited to publish his first edition of the Gasparilla Magazine. “I feel good. I think I’m feeling a little bit rushed maybe, but that’s okay. That’s the nature of the business. If something needs to get done before the deadline, it’s got to get done, you know.”

“I think the thing I like best about the job is the freedom of being able to be creative and the photography aspect. I love photography I’ve been doing it for a while now, 12 or 13 years. I’ve just been doing it for a side thing, just my passion, but it’s nice to put that passion to work.”

And working in lovely Boca Grande is a bonus. “I’ve been on the island since I moved here to Florida. Honestly, this is one of my favorite spots to go as far as to the beach. I would come out here all the time. I love Boca Grande.”

If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Matt Gutman. From gardening, “I’ve always had kind of a green thumb. My grandparents had greenhouses when we were kids.” To jewelry making, “I’ve dabbled a little bit with it. I’ve always been into the crystals and stuff like that, so it is a little side thing.  I’ve got 1001 projects that I probably shouldn’t take on, but I do.”

Matt is also an amateur mechanic. “I have a car that I’m doing an engine swap on, so I like messing around with cars. Whenever it’s possible to save money, I do most of my repairs in my car.”

Matt is unmarried and has no children but does have a steady girlfriend named Petra that he met in Florida. “No kids, not yet. I enjoy my life and I don’t know if I want to have a little one.”

There’s one more thing Matt wants to do in the future. “I want to build a container home. And I mean shipping containers. You can get them really cheap and the design layouts, the possibilities are endless. There are so many cool designs with big glass windows and bay windows.  Instead of using wood, those metal containers will last forever. Salt might be a problem, granted, but I’m not next to the beach. I’d be more inland if I were to do it, or I might not even be in Florida.”

Matt is looking forward to a bright future at the Boca Beacon. “I plan to keep branding myself as a graphic design artist on the side so I can have more side work. I do have a little bit of side work right now, but it’s slow, which is good because the magazine is about to go out. I’ve been kind of busy on that.”

As much as Matt loves the warmer weather, he is getting tired of the intense Florida summer heat and humidity. “Now that I’ve been down in Florida, I think I’m looking forward to a little bit more of a weather change. In Florida, the sky is always blue, and in the winter, you can go outside, and you can enjoy yourself. But I am looking forward to some cooler weather. I think I’ve had enough of the heat this year.”

And then there is the subject of alligators. “When I lived in Arcadia, I would go down to the Peace River and I’d see kids out in the middle, swimming, having a good time, and splashing. The locals do it and they’re not afraid of them, but I wouldn’t risk it. Sure, you rarely get an alligator attacking you, but you do have to be careful during mating season. Nope, swimming with alligators isn’t for me.”