Over the past year, I’ve interviewed many talented local artists and was impressed by their work. I was inspired by their vision and the ways in which they used their art to promote healing, beauty, a sense of much-needed fun and social change. But what I’ll remember most about the artists I spoke with in 2020 is the way they found innovative ways to support themselves, each other and their community.
Some of them shared their stories about what – or who – inspired them during an unprecedented year.
During the past year I took two online art classes from Canadian artist Deb Weiers. I love her wonky people and creatures and I wanted to enhance my own quirky style. I’ve learned new techniques and discovered new mediums, both of which I’ve added to my art repertoire.
My 10-month-old business was shut down for two months by COVID-19. I celebrated my one year anniversary in isolation. I was just beginning to feel my groove in The Gallery when the doors were shuttered. So for 2020, my greatest inspiration has been our art-loving community and the support they have shown me and The Gallery. My clients are a huge part of that. Leslie and Mark Rickerson were the first to stand by me just as the pandemic shut us down, but they were not the last. Susan Connolly asked me to create what I wanted and said she would love whatever it was. I have been fortunate enough to have a long list of people who supported the arts and, thus, artists. At The Gallery I have held the light of inspiration and beauty in the forms of my 13 artists, all of whom I love and respect. The power of community, belief, determination has inspired me most in 2020.
Every person, young or old, flourishes through encouragement and support. Shortly after moving to Gulfport, I was introduced to the ArtJones group. The founder, Brenda McMahon, and the group’s members were very welcoming and supportive. This was a huge inspiration for me as an artist in a new community. Specifically this year, organizations such as ArtJones, Gulfport Merchants Chamber and Carroway + Rose, as well as Gulfport’s art-loving community, have been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me. The turnout of art lovers for exhibitions has also been very inspiring. I am so lucky to be living in this community.
As for what inspired me to paint what I painted, it was the “bad news” year. From corona to social injustice unrest, this was a challenging year for everyone. Friends and relatives were hurting. I used my art and painted to distract myself from focusing on all the bad news and pain. My art was an outlet for me. My piece called “Grief and Compassion” was the start of the several pieces I did this year.
This year I was inspired by the current sociopolitical climate and the need for change. I was also motivated to bring joy to others in the midst of such a challenging year.
Living in Gulfport I can especially appreciate outdoor living and the beauty that surrounds us. For the past 10 months I have produced a number of plein air and home studio pieces. My influences often come from my Zoom group studio time with my Gulfport mentor and teacher, Jack Providenti. We have used much of this time exploring color theory, composition, techniques and various skills to expand the approaches we bring to our painting. I have been very grateful for the time this pandemic has given me to slow down, practice and integrate these pearls of painting wisdom.
There are so many people and organizations that inspired me, it’s difficult to name just one or all in a paragraph. The entire art community of Gulfport, Enroy Foundation, all ArtJones Open Studio Tour artists, Gulfport Merchants Chamber, USF CAM, Beach Bazaar, Barbara Banno, Brenda McMahon, Ray Domingo, Tom Pitzen, Cathy Loper, Lynn Taylor, Eagle Finegan, Debbie Wolfe, Diane Bragg, James Briggs, Marcia Biggs, Leslie Elsasser. Plus the support of the entire town, businesses, and the people of Gulfport. It takes a village!
Hands down, Brenda McMahon of Brenda McMahon Gallery, as well as the other Gulfport-based artists involved there, including, but not limited to Diane Bragg, Jila Davoodi, Dawn Waters and Nancy Poucher.
Brenda McMahon’s tenacity through the events of 2020 is the kind of leadership needed to keep us elevated and hopeful when things look bleak. She kept me inspired and motivated and encouraged me to dig deeper into my pockets of faith to continue doing the work I believe is so valuable. She cultivated an ability to see and think beyond circumstances, navigating through them with optimism and the belief that everything is possible. Working with Brenda and the gallery has been instrumental to my success as a working artist this year. Without her guidance, faith and support, as well as the other artists of the gallery and beyond, such as Jack Providenti, Doug D’Souza, Ray Domingo and so many more, I would perhaps be in a different space mentally and emotionally. I’ve felt lifted up this year by all the artists around me continuing to do their work, as well as all the friends, family and supporters who continue to put me to work.
The gallery is a space that offers hope and trust that this too shall pass and we’ll be a stronger, more loving community for it.
The efforts of the Carter G. Woodson Museum and Ms. Terri Lipsey Scott (the director) was the biggest inspiration to me this year. Coming together to create the BLM mural in St. Pete, the artist community grew stronger and closer-knit, despite the circumstances of the year that have largely kept us all apart. This year, I learned the gift of adversity, and found true purpose in unity and connection.
I have also been very inspired by Dr. Sydel Ledgrande and Dr. Sybil Rosado, two life-changing powers that have established an initiative for South Side St. Pete called Project I. A.M. – “Changing the Game.” I have joined them as an artist for their cause to support families who need it most by aiding them with supplies and providing the arts as a way for them to flourish.
I was feeling down due to social activities being turned upside down and the constant barrage of bad news. My personal income suffered a loss because I couldn’t teach at Suntan Art Center due to COVID restrictions. So I went to the beach one morning, swam and took a long walk. When I came home I felt much better and decided to work on a painting. I opened my Bob Marley station on Pandora and played it loud as I painted a beach scene from a photo I took at Ft. De Soto. Before long I was feeling fabulous, and I knew it was because I was doing something positive about the situation. I sold the painting, “Dancing in the Shadows,” the same day I posted it on Facebook. I got the idea from Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” which was basically what I was doing.