Casual observers may not realize is exactly how much goes into not only the creative process, but also the ways an artist navigates the business of art. The Gulfport Merchants Chamber helps emerging artists navigate both with its Rise & Shine grant.
Brenda McMahon, who owns the Brenda McMahon Gallery on Beach Boulevard in Gulfport and is on the GMC board of directors and head of its arts committee, knows about those challenges.
“I’ve been a full-time ceramic artist for 25 years, through the ups and downs of the economy and learning the business of art,” she says. “One thing I’m passionate about is giving artists a path forward and help answer the really difficult questions that come up for artists, especially the business side of art.”
Each year the review board chooses two artists who live in Gulfport or Pinellas County for the grant. The GMC Arts Committee works with them for a year, helping promote their work via art shows and exhibits, social media marketing and helping offset the cost of booths, supplies and materials.
The 2019/2020 Artist Grant recipients are mural artist Kiersty Long and oil painter Paula Roy.
“Rise & Shine grants are designed to give emerging artist resources to help them take the next step in their creative careers, and Paula and Kiersty have done exactly that,” says James Briggs, a GMC board member and founder and director of the Carroway + Rose public relations agency. “Kiersty’s murals are visible across our town’s homes and businesses, and Paula’s paintings have been displayed at shows across town. On behalf of the chamber, we couldn’t be more proud to celebrate these exciting artists.”
Another invaluable component of the grant is mentorship. Artists meet with McMahon to discuss different aspects of the art world such as perfecting their work and how to price their art.
“We had forums with open conversations, an incubator community to nourish the soul and spirit in a safe, supportive environment. I love mentoring,” says McMahon. “The evolution of both of these women was incredible.”
Both artists credit the grant and McMahon’s mentorship with helping them navigate their emerging careers during an unprecedented time.
“This incredible opportunity has opened many doors for me,” says Long. “Gulfport is a nurturing place for emerging artists as I was able to introduce my artwork for the first time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help of my mentor, Brenda McMahon, I have reimagined what being a professional artist could look like. I have created several murals throughout the community as well as yard signs and painted mailboxes. I am thrilled to now call myself a full-time artist.”
Roy has been equally busy, establishing a home art studio.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly rerouted some of my expectations for this year, but despite lockdowns and social distancing, I’ve kept on painting and will have quite an inventory of work when the world opens up again,” says Roy. “The community of Gulfport loves and reveres its artists and this grant award is a testimony to the community commitment of supporting emerging artists at all levels. Having Brenda McMahon as my mentor and Jack Providenti as my primary painting instructor, I know I received the best possible guidance and advice. I also received inspiration and support from several Gulfport artists.”
As their grant period winds down, the final step is to try and find a way to showcase both artists’ work.
“We’re trying to figure out a safe way to get them a final show,” says McMahon. “Kiersty and Paula worked so hard and it shows in their work. I’m proud of them and really, really happy for them.”
Newest Rise & Shine Grant Recipients Announced
The Gulfport Merchants Chamber awarded the 2020/2021 Rise & Shine Grant to two local artists: Janet Folsom, an oil painter, and Zack Knight, who is proficient in multiple mediums. The official start date of the grant is September 8.
Rise & Shine grants are awarded annually by the Gulfport Merchants Chamber to artists over the age of 18 who live in Gulfport or Pinellas County. The grants last for one year and include funding for displays, materials and supplies and a free one-year membership as an Art Works Here GMC artist membership that includes social media promotion and workshops. Grant recipients also receive four consultations with a professional artist once each quarter, financial assistance with booth reservations at the Gulfport Third Saturday IndieFaire and jury exemption and a reduced price booth for the Gulfport Fine Arts Festival in February.