Why Take a Docent tour?

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By Stephenie Frasher, Docent Team Leader

The word "docent" in Webster's dictionary means teacher or lecturer. Today, the word docent has taken on a different meaning. A docent today is a "guide" to learning not a lecturer. Why is that important?

Over the last 10 years, museum educators have realized that having someone tell you a lot of facts about the artist and the time period is interesting but certainly not what the artist intended. There is so much more to a work of art than facts. The facts we can learn on the internet. Really looking at an artwork, standing in front of it, is a whole different experience. Nothing can replace that in person experience!

Art Speaks to Us

If an artwork can "speak to us" through its colors or brushwork, do we need anyone to help us? What draws us to one artwork in a room and not another? As viewers we all need a toolbox to explore art, to help us consider the elements and really get a sense of what the artist wants us to see and feel. Can we do this on our own? Of course!

Does having a "guide" by your side facilitate this? Yes. And this can lead to a richer and more fulfilling visit with any work of art. Are the facts and history of the time important in learning about the artwork? Yes. But two weeks after your visit, will you remember the dates the artists was born or where they went to school? Or will you remember the artwork you saw and how it moved you?

So what's in the toolbox? Place yourself in the artist's shoes…what are the choices they have made when creating an artwork? Color, light, line, composition, will it be realistic or abstract, will it be large or small? Is there a donor paying for it or is this the artist's creative outlet? So many choices.

The Docent's Role

The first thing a docent will do is invite you to look…really look at the artwork. Take in all of those choices the artist has made…line, color, composition, brushwork…. The next step is to analyze what you are seeing. How do we do that? The best tool is to describe the work. Imagine yourself on your cellphone talking to a friend and tell them what you see. If every picture tells a story, what is the story here? This step is very important because now we have a connection with the work.

Does the title give us any information? How does the artist's choice of colors affect our feelings? What mood has the artist created? What might the brushstrokes tell us? Where is the light source? Where is the artist leading our eyes to "look"? Has the artist placed the scene close up to the front of the picture plane so that we become part of the scene or have they pulled us back into the scene? How have they done this?

You can certainly enjoy a work of art on your own but sharing your discoveries about an artwork with someone else is so much more enriching. A docent will not only guide you with that "toolbox" but will weave interesting facts about the artist and what was happening in the world and the artist's life at the time…what we call the inside scoop. This makes the artwork truly come alive.

Bringing Art to Life

One of the best experiences I had as a docent at the National Gallery of Art was on a tour of our Modern Sculpture collection. One of the gentlemen in the tour told me upfront that he hated Modern Art and he was only there because his wife said he had to come along. As we progressed through the tour, and I used that toolbox of discovery, he began to look and ask questions and really became engaged.

A light bulb went on for him and he began to understand that like all art, it is the artist's creativity and choices that inspire us. He thanked me at the end of the tour for helping him to see the many possibilities and challenges for an artist. It had completely changed his feelings about Modern Art!

I invite you to discover the Sarasota Colony Artists works with our docents. The collection is a so varied in style and techniques. You will have lots to explore and discover. It is an outstanding collection.

Our Docent tours are offered to the public on the first Wednesday of the month and private tours for groups are available.To make an appointment for a tour visit Arts Advocates Docent Tours. 

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Open to the Public

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Our new Arts Advocates Gallery opens to the public on Saturday, July 17. Join us then between 2-5 pm and enjoy viewing 19 paintings from our renowned collection by the Sarasota Colony of Artists.  

©2021 Maria Lyle

From the 1930s through the 1970s, Sarasota was a thriving art colony, recognized nationally for the celebrated painters and sculptors who had homes and studios in the area. They came from around the country representing major styles and trends of the 20th century.

Our exhibit includes works by famous painters (see paintings below) whose other creations are owned by major museums around the world.

Over the years, our works of art have been on display at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and will continue to be shown there as well.

The exhibit will be open to the public every Saturday from 2:00-5:00 pm. No appointment is required. Written information is available for self-guided tours. We are located in the Crossings at Siesta Mall on Tamiami Trail and Siesta Key Drive (enter through the north entrance next to Connors restaurant).

Docent-guided tours of the exhibit are open to the public at 11:00 am on the first Wednesday of each month. Group and special tours can be arranged through Stephenie Frasher, docent team leader, at docent@artsadvocates.com or by calling 443-454-2206

What You'll See

Included in the 19 paintings in the gallery exhibit are:

Hilton Leech. His "Descending Yellows" is the very first painting we purchased. 

Helen Sawyer. We own "Summer." She was married to Jerry Farnsworth, whose painting "Night Wind" is also in our exhibit. They lived and worked in Sarasota for more than 50 years.

Jimmy Ernst. His paintings are owned by the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, and the Smithsonian. We own "Image Scape."

Mary Sarg Murphy. In the 1930s she was well known for her magazine illustrations and children's book designs and later gained recognition for her portraits. Like other Colony artists, she was inspired by the circus in Sarasota. We own "Center Ring."

Jon Corbino. He is represented in 64 U.S. museums. We own Palette "to Eva Lee."

William Hartman. His son Bill Hartman still owns the William Hartman Gallery started by his father. It's located on Palm Avenue. We own "Circus Wagons." 

Ben Stahl. He was an award-winning artist who also gained famed for creating hundreds of illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post and other popular magazines. We own "Alice Mattock of Spirt Lake."

Shirley Clement. We own "White Dress." In the 1930s she was well known for her magazine illustrations and children's book designs and later gained recognition for her paintings.

We hope we've whetted your appetite to visit the Arts Advocates Gallery and enjoy more paintings in our wonderful collection. See you there!

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Together Again in Person!

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How sweet it was for members and guests to gather for Arts Advocates' first in-person get-together in over a year. More than 35 people enjoyed our "Meet & Mingle" event held on June 9th in the beautiful social room of the Beau Ciel condo.

Old friendships were rekindled and new ones forged as attendees enjoyed wine and cheese over conversations long delayed by the pandemic.

For the first time, Arts Advocates' new posters were unveiled featuring images from our collection of paintings and sculptures. For a donation of $35, guests could also obtain packets of note cards with images of four paintings in the collection. Judy Cole, who is a new member, won the drawing for a $100 gift certificate for Michael's on East.

Gallery Director and Past President Donna Maytham described the new Arts Advocates Gallery located in the Crossings at Siesta Mall that will open to the general public on July 17. This is the first-ever gallery for the organization.

Seventeen paintings of Sarasota Colony artists have been removed from the Van Wezel, where our collection has been housed for many years and will be on display for the enjoyment of our members and guests in our own Gallery. Arts Advocates workshops and special events will be held in the Gallery.

The exhibit will be open to the public every Saturday from 2:00-5:00 pm beginning July 17th. Docent-guided tours of our exhibit will be offered at 11 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Group and special tours can be arranged through Stephenie Frasher, docent team leader, at stephfrash@comcast.net or by calling 443-454-2206.

Donna asked guests who belong to other social organizations to invite their members to visit the Gallery individually or by scheduling a group tour.

Special thanks to the following for their donations to the event:

  • Cabot Creameries – cheddar cheese
  • Cecelia Condor– the space and bartender
  • Jeannette Paladino – wine
  • Donna Maytham -- $100 gift certificate and note cards
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The Legacy of the Sarasota Colony

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They liked nothing better than painting and sculpting. But artists also enjoyed having fun at costume balls and gallery openings during the golden age of the Sarasota Colony in the years following World War II.

William (Bill) Hartman, owner of William Hartman Gallery on Palm Avenue should know. His father, represented in Arts Advocates' collection with the painting "Circus Wagon, "was one of the leaders of the movement.

Many Art Schools

"What ignited the art scene was the GI Bill," said Bill. This government program offered to return veterans tuition and living stipends for college or vocational programs. Airbases throughout the state trained thousands of pilots. Many came to love the area and decided to stay and study at more than a dozen art schools that opened to meet the growing need.

The core Sarasota Colony consisted of about 60 to 70 artists who were full-time residents, according to Bill. Many of these artists also had their own schools or taught at the Ringling School of Art, including Syd Solomon and Wilfrid Berg. Another was Hilton Leech who owned the Hilton Leech House and Amagansett Art School on Hillview Street that is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Seasonal visitors and retirees from the north provided additional students for the art schools. Sarasota, with all its charm, provided the subject matter. The Ringling Circus, headquartered in Sarasota, figured in many paintings

"My father attended the Ringling School of Art on the GI Bill where he met my mother," said Bill. He opened the Hartman Gallery in the building that now houses the Sage Restaurant. Next door was the Syd Solomon Sarasota School of Art.

Heart of Town

In the 1950s downtown Sarasota was the heart of the arts community. Businesses would pick an artist to showcase with an exhibit of their artworks. They would take out ads and host opening day parties that were well attended. Dozens of artists exhibited their paintings at the Sarasota Art Association.

"At that time, Sarasota was best known for the visual arts," said Bill (pictured below with a painting by his father.) The formation and growth of performing arts organizations came years later.

In 1956, Ben Stahl, a staple of the colony, was commissioned by the Catholic Press of Chicago to create 14 paintings of the Stations of the Cross for a new Bible.

"These paintings were fairly sizable and he wanted to show them locally. There was only one gallery big enough and it was owned by parents. My dad made all the frames for the paintings. Over the next two weeks, there were lines out the door and 5,000 people came to see the show. That's how important the visual arts were," said Bill.

Women artists were an important part of the Sarasota Colony. In 1953, The Petticoat Painters was founded by Martha Hartman to showcase the talents of female artists. Helen Protas, an early abstract artist, was a founding member. The by-invitation-only group still exists.

But it wasn't all work and no play. Besides gallery parties, "There were dances at the Lido Casino and the Beaux Arts Ball," said Bill. Colony artists showed another side of their artistry at this annual party where prizes were awarded for the wildest and most original costumes.

By the 1970s the members of the colony began to pass away, their artwork a lasting legacy of a movement that has only become stronger as Sarasota grew to become a destination for visitors and residents who have flocked here because of our flourishing arts and cultural community. 

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Public Art in Sarasota

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As the cultural center of the Gulf Coast, Sarasota is home to museums like The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art which owns a world-renowned collection of paintings by the Flemish artist, Peter Paul Rubens.

Less well known is that Sarasota has a significant public art collection including sculptures and murals. John Ringling donated the first pieces of public art in the 1920s and the collection has grown over time.

There is now a City of Sarasota Public Art Committee that "facilitates the creation and exhibition of a wide variety of publicly and privately initiated artworks through commissions, acquisitions, donations, and loans."

These works of art are sprinkled around the city and you may drive by them every day without a second glance. But these treasures deserve our attention as much of the artworks behind the walls of our notable museums. John Ringling is quoted as having said, "There are no great cities without great art." That includes public art. A New York Times article last week documented that art is "proliferating in the public square."

Sarasota is a great city, admired by visitors who come here from around the world to enjoy our museums, symphony, opera, theaters, ballet, and performing arts hall. Our public art should be included when we claim bragging rights.

Here are just a few of these pieces of art, a couple taken from my car window, to whet your appetite. You can see all the pieces in a picture book recently published called "Public Art. Public Spaces. The Sarasota Collection" that is available for download here. Enjoy!

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A Stroll Through the Gardens

 A butterfly flew onto my hand in the Butterfly Garden, one of the largest in Florida, as I wandered through Selby Gardens Historic Spanish Point in Osprey during a recent visit.

This colorful winged creation of nature is only one of the treasures of this bayfront property that is a revered part of Sarasota's storied history. Century's old trees, native Florida plants, sculptures, and old restored buildings dot the landscape as you walk along nature trails littered with crushed shells.

Ancient History

The gardens date back 5,000 years. In the "A Window to the Past" exhibition visitors can step inside an ancient shell midden and be surrounded on three sides by what lies beneath the surface.

In 1867, the Webb family from Utica, NY, established a homestead on the grounds. This heritage is preserved, and visitors can tour the carefully restored 1901 Guptill House, the rehabilitated Mary's Chapel, and a reconstruction of the Webb Packing House.

In 1910, Bertha Palmer bought over 80,000 acres of land in and around Sarasota and Manatee County. Of that total, 350 acres were on Little Sarasota Bay that included the Webb homestead. Palmer called it The Oaks.

She preserved the pioneer buildings and connected them with lavish formal gardens irrigated by shell aqueducts, still on view, to carry water thorough her scenic gardens. Three of them – the Sunken Garden, Duchene Lawn, and Jungle Walk – are available to visitors today.

These photos capture only a small portion of the beauty of the Gardens and are a taste of what you can expect if decide to visit.

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Meet Harry Potter’s Illustrator

Mary GrandPré, the original American illustrator of the Harry Potter books that became an international sensation, turned down the job when first offered to her. "I was just too busy with other work," she told Arts Advocates members at our April virtual meeting.

When Scholastic still pushed by sending her the first manuscript, she was hooked. "We had no idea that it would become this international phenomenon," she said, while showing the virtual audience examples of her Harry Potter illustrations along with her other art works. She also created the typeface for the famous Harry Potter logo and illustrations for several Harry Potter spinoff products.

Everything was hush-hush as the books were published to continued acclaim. "The manuscripts for each book were hand delivered to me and I immediately locked them in a safe," she said. Only her husband knew she was creating illustrations for the books. 

Her New Paths

While she is best known for her Harry Potter illustrations, she already had a thriving career as a children's book writer and illustrator. She was also the conceptual artist on Dreamwork's animated film "Antz" and on Blue Sky Studios' animated film "Ice Age."

Her "new path," as she calls it, has led to her current oeuvre of abstract paintings on large wood panels. "Jazz inspires me and helps me find movement and shape in my work," she said.

Mary lives and works in Sarasota. During the pandemic, she has found an outlet for her anxiety by moving down another path. She started creating Sock Monkeys, works of art made with real socks that she auctions on Instagram with the proceeds going to a charity that feeds the hungry, while continuing to work on her abstract paintings.

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What Does a Docent Do?

What Does a Docent Do?

If you've ever visited a museum or taken a tour while on vacation – and most of us have – then you've most likely been guided by a docent, who was probably a volunteer who served without pay.

You no doubt have wonderful memories of docent guided tours that enriched your experience and possibly other tours that you'd rather forget. Mark Ormond, who advises Arts Advocates and recommends additions to our collection, is also an experienced docent.

In a recent presentation for potential docents to guide tours of Arts Advocates Florida artists' collection, he explained what docents do and how they can help viewers have a more emotional and intellectual experience when viewing a painting or sculpture. He cited works from our collection as examples to illustrate how light, color, form, architecture, and media can influence how we see a work of art. Does the painting or sculpture draw you in by stirring a memory, making you feel happy or sad, or just plain bored?

Audience Engagement

Mark pointed out, "A docent shouldn't be a talking head. He or she must engage the audience, scan their faces and read their body language to gauge their interest and involvement in the work. Ask questions to learn what they're seeing and experiencing. Every time you view a painting or sculpture you see something new that changes your previous perspective and enriches your experience."

A docent should also have a broad understanding of the works and historical significance in order to be prepared to answer questions. Docents need to make a significant commitment of time for training and continuing education. These are the requirements, for example, for docents at The Ringling Museum of Art.

Here are a number of works of art from Arts Advocates collection. Let a painting or sculpture speak to you. What are you seeing? What moves you? What makes you happy? What makes you sad?

Experience These Paintings

To create appealing and seductive paintings artists must understand color theory and be able to mix colors that attract our attention. This is particularly true in an abstract painting. Guided by this color wheel can you find all the colors that Syd Solomon uses in his abstract painting titled Stravinsky. 

Humberto Calzada is an artist who understands not only color theory and composition, but also mathematics and physics. He had to create an architectural plan in his head for his composition using geometry and understanding perspective so that we might have the joy of discovering the puzzle of this illusion of space he presents for us on his two-dimensional canvas.

Can you find the perspectival lines and vanishing points in the Calzada painting?

Jerry Farnsworth who created the painting on the right called Night Wind continues a long tradition of painting women looking out of a window in a composition that challenges the artist to balance the light and atmosphere of an interior space with that of an outdoor space. Can you think of what you experience when you are inside looking out a window?

The Arts Advocates Collection includes the watercolor Wilford Loran painted in 1965, called Land's End. It was his impression of the natural site on the bay front that the Van Wezel now occupies. Loran's approach to painting was similar to Monet in that he was not interested in an exact realistic depiction of Nature. Are your memories of nature exact or more like impressions and sensations?

Bruce Marsh who is represented in the collection by his oil painting Amalfi IV uses his own photographs as a reference point for his construction of a painting. He often grids his canvas and chooses to focus on what he observes in small areas of an image to form a large composite image of a place. Do you think you do the same in your mind when you try to remember some place you have visited in the past?

If you enjoyed this brief tour of Arts Advocates collection, then explore our other artists by clicking here. Enjoy!

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Speaking of the Arts … Francisco Serrano

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In January 2021, we Zoomed over to London for our "Speaking of the Arts …" presentation with Francisco Serrano, a member of England's Royal Ballet. Serrano shared his star-studded journey from Sarasota to London via New York and Havana, as well as video clips of him performing and rehearsing. You can watch the conversation with this award-winning dancer here: https://youtu.be/pdnAPdVQEm4

Enjoy! 

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Pioneering Women Artists

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Women's History Month is celebrated each March to honor and tell the stories of women who transformed our nation.

Arts Advocates celebrates 11 women artists whose works are included in our unparalleled collection of paintings and sculpture from the movement now known as the Sarasota Art Colony. Starting in the 1930s through the 1970s, Sarasota was a thriving art colony, recognized nationally for the celebrated painters and sculptors who had homes and studios in the area.

Hundreds of painters and sculptors moved here and drew inspiration from the orange groves, celery farms, cattle ranches, beaches, and tropical splendor. John Ringling brought the circus to Sarasota, also influencing these artists. Ringling is often credited with planting the seeds for the flourishing arts community that we now enjoy in Sarasota.

You can enjoy and celebrate these pioneering women artists by clicking here to see their works along with all the paintings and sculptures in our collection.

Women artists represented in Arts Advocates collection include:

Beth Arthur "Beach Garden Cities"

Carol Baumgartner "Sea Drift"

Lynn Davison "Pressing Leaves"

Shirley Clement "White Dress"

Glenna Finch untitled abstract

Edna Hibel "Oriental Figures"

Dorothy Gillespie "Song of the Raindance"

Sophie Johnstone "The Secret"

Helen Sawyer "Summer"

Lois Bartlett Tracy "The Portal"

Mary Sarg Murphy "Center Ring"

Click on the social media links below if you'd like to share this post with your followers so they, too, can enjoy the 53 outstanding paintings and sculptures in our collection. 

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Glass Sculptures Dazzle at Ringling

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Glass sculptures designed by famed artists including Dale Chihuly, Giampaolo Amoruso and Martin Blank are gracing a gallery at the Ringling College of Art and Design. These dazzling creations are in an exhibit called "A Few of Our Favorite Things."

The sculptures are from the Richard and Barbara Basch Collection and feature some of the most exceptional examples of art glass and brilliant one-of-a-kind commissions by the greatest masters of the medium from around the world. Barbara Basch narrates a short film describing the provenance and intent of the pieces. Photos of several of the sculptures are shown below this post.

The exhibit closes on March 27th.It is necessary to make an appointment to visit these colorful and unique sculptures as the Ringling is limiting attendance during the pandemic.

To schedule an appointment for your viewing, email galleries@ringling.edu.

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Q&A – Teresa Carson

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How does poetry complement and influence other art forms?

Every great work of art, in any form, attempts to give viewers/readers/listeners access to the eternal truths that exist underneath the world of appearances; therefore, all art forms complement each other. Furthermore, I believe that multi-disciplinary collaborations, live or not, have the power to influence, even expand, one's work in unexpected ways … and that's always a good thing!

Why is poetry important to our lives?

Sometimes I jokingly call poetry the "cod liver oil" of the arts because people are always insisting, "it's good for you," which, in my opinion, carries an unspoken, "you won't like it because poetry tastes terrible." But, as William Carlos Williams wrote, "It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there." So what IS found there? Awe. Wonder. Eternity. Connection. Soul. The trick is finding the poems with which you can have a deep conversation.

You describe poems as "conversations." What do you mean by that?

For most of us the way in which we were taught to approach a poem was with one question: What does this poem mean? As if the reader's sole role is to break poem's code. This approach not only disregards the complexity and depth of a poem, but also ends up making us feel stupid when we can't crack it. So I'm a mission to teach those who have been shying away from poetry, and to expand the tool-kits of existing readers, a far more accessible approach which consists of entering into a deep conversation with a poem. In this approach the reader doesn't interrogate the prisoner-poem until it gives up its secret; instead the reader deep listens and pays attention to every aspect of the poem (including punctuation and spaces). In time the reader will discover the multiple and varied layers of meaning inherent in the poem.

Serendipity on a visit to Ostia Antica, an extinct city near Rome, inspired you to write a series of books about that experience. What was so inspiring about that singular event?

It's difficult for me to talk about what happened at Ostia Antica on that day in 2014 because I don't actually know what happened. The outing was planned as a perfunctory visit in order to check "extinct city" off of my sightseeing list. But the place had other plans. Here's the best way to explain my experience: as soon as I walked into the Porta Romana entrance, everything in the place started talking to me. Does that sound somewhat wackadoodle? Trust me, going through the experience felt even more wackadoodle! We ended up spending hours roaming in and around the extensive ruins.

By the time we arrived back in New Jersey, where we were living at the time, the titles of a five-book series based on Ostia Antica had already appeared in my head. I also knew that each book would be bi-lingual (English & Italian). Deerbrook Editions published Visit to an Extinct City, the first book in the series, in January. Lucky for me I have a publisher who is willing to commit to such an unusual poetry project!

You lived in the northeast most of your life before moving to Sarasota three years ago. Has that life change also influenced your poetry?

Oh, yes. Before moving to Sarasota I had lived exclusively in densely populated urban areas where nature was at a premium. Noisy, dirty cities were my natural habitat … and I loved them. Since my daily experiences become the source material for my poems, that urban environment is very much evident in my first three books.

But Sarasota opened my eyes to the beauty of sky and clouds, birds and flowers, water and sand. I almost fell to my knees in astonishment the first time I saw a fox on my morning walk! I'm currently collaborating with fellow Arts Advocates member Leslie Butterfield, a visual artist, on Seven Sacred Pauses, which is a series of 8 paintings and poems based on the beauty of the natural world in this area.

What are your plans for Arts Advocates to encourage more people to read and enjoy poetry?

As mentioned earlier, I'm on a mission to engage people in the conversation of poetry because "what you find there" can change your life. For Arts Advocate members, I'm open to suggestions—possibilities include a talk, a workshop, or a reading. Additionally, members may receive my weekly "poetry blast," la poesia della settimana, by providing their email addresses to teresa@teresacarson.com. To find out more about me, my work, or my ideas about engaging in a conversation with poetry go to www.teresacarson.com or CavanKerry Press Teresa Carson on Poetry

Part X (From Visit to an Extinct City)

O Ostia of uneven surfaces, where Romans walked; we walk; others will walk.
Sea, sun, the soul, and desire linger in your temples.
What votive offerings may new ghosts bring to old?

Fresco fragments, which never again will be a whole, cling to your walls.
The "day's work" of its artist decayed.
He lived, his name lived, his memory lived for years but not beyond.

Ostia of erasure, letters on a torso sink into stone.
What words did they make? What sentences? Who was meant to read them?
Were they meant to be funny? Angry? Sad? Profound?

Tell us. We'll understand.
Landscape of incomplete, of unswept, of cut open, of gone.
O Ostia, how can you bring us back to before when there's so much after?


Teresa Carson's work centers on the themes of time, memory, and the stories we humans tell. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Elegy for a Floater (CavanKerry Press, 2008); My Crooked House (CavanKerry Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; The Congress of Human Oddities (Deerbrook Editions, 2015); and Visit to an Extinct City (Deerbrook Editions, 2021).

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Moving Forward – Power Your Passion

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Arts Advocates members, like many people around the world, have made it a priority to stay involved with the arts in these unprecedented times. We hope all arts lovers will make support of Arts Advocates a priority as we work to stay connected and plan for an exciting future.

A donation to Arts Advocates allows you to power your passion for the arts through supporting the creative young people in our community, preserving and helping us exhibit our singular collection of Florida artists, and helping us offer ongoing programs that bring the community closer to the arts.

Power your passion for:

• STUDENTS: Can you imagine what a difficult time this is for students of the arts? They are dealing with new levels of complications and minimal interactions with their peers and teachers, which is especially difficult in the performing arts. Through Arts Advocates scholarships, the financial burdens are eased for our scholarship recipients.

• ART: Through the temporary closure of the Van Wezel, the Arts Advocates art collection remains inaccessible. Our collection team has been working diligently to find a new home for our collection. The care and exhibition of the artwork depends on donations we receive annually.

• ENGAGING PROGRAMS: Arts Advocates' "Speaking of the Arts …" series was Sarasota Magazine's Best of Sarasota 2020 Editors' Pick for Best New Speaker Series. We have moved from in-person events to Zoom programs, which, with support, can be more widely offered so more people can hear from high caliber artists from a variety of genres.

We understand that, with the pandemic still very present, humanitarian needs are enormous, but support of the arts also remains critical. The arts provide solace, promote understanding, and inspire empathy – all things we need now more than ever.

Please consider making a donation to Arts Advocates so that we may continue to provide vital support to creative young people, access to our stellar art collection, and educational programs for the community.

There is so much we can accomplish together. 

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Contribute to Arts Advocates Using AmazonSmile

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Good news! You can now support Arts Advocates by using AmazonSmile, a simple way for you to donate to us every time you shop on Amazon, at no cost to you.

What is AmazonSmile?

AmazonSmile is available at smile.amazon.com on your web browser and can be activated in the Amazon Shopping app for iOS and Android phones. When you shop AmazonSmile, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, including Amazon Prime member benefits, with the added benefit that AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to Arts Advocates!

Choose to Support Arts Advocates

On your first visit to smile.amazon.com, you will be prompted to select Arts Advocates (Fine Arts Society of Sarasota) to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Amazon remembers your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make on AmazonSmile will result in a donation.

Managing Your AmazonSmile Account

You can manage your purchases and other account information on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile using a single account. You can use your existing Amazon.com account on AmazonSmile if you have one, or create a new account at smile.amazon.com if you don't.

Purchases Eligible for Donations

Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked "Eligible for AmazonSmile donation" on their product detail pages.

Thank you for your support – and happy shopping!

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Book Review: A History of Visual Art in Sarasota

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"A History of Visual Art in Sarasota" was authored by Pat Ringling Buck, a historian and freelance journalist; Marcia Corbino, an arts writer and critic; and Kevin Dean, a curator and director of the Selby Gallery at the Ringling School of Art and Design. All three authors lived in Sarasota, so their research is meticulous.

Whether you are a history buff, an art aficionado, an artist, or just want to know more about Sarasota, this book is an extraordinary resource and a fascinating story. A few highlights:

1. You will acquire a deeper understanding of the evolution of the arts in Sarasota, and a window into the work and social scene during the mid-20th century.

2. Art stimulated the growth of Sarasota as a locale for artists and collectors. You will gain insights into the importance of the visual arts in our community and region.

3. You will see the role played by the arts organizations and schools in providing a foundation in the arts for future generations.

The book also charts the beginning and the 50-year evolution of the Fine Arts Society, now branded as Arts Advocates. Page 41 contains the following: "To cap the decade, in November of 1969, an arts organization was formed: the Sarasota Fine Arts Society. It was instituted with five charter members: Winifred Clark, Emily Holmes, Adrienne Robbins, Annamae Sandegren, and Marion Storm. The founders planned to recognize the distinctive work of Florida artists by creating a permanent collection. In 1970 they made their first purchase, a Hilton Leech painting. The opening of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in January of 1970 provided the growing collection with exhibition space in the lobbies and grand foyer."

"A History of Visual Art in Sarasota" is available on Amazon with both new and used copies.

Hardcover. Full-color photographs. 160 pages. University Press of Florida; 1st edition (April 9, 2003).

Review provided by Tonya Eubank 

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Speaking of the Arts...Lynn Ahrens

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Lynn Ahrens with Booker High School students

In February 2020, we had the opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation between Tony Award winning lyricist Lynn Ahrens and Celine Rosenthal, Asolo Repertory's Associate Artistic Director.  Secrets for developing the lyrics and music for a brand-new musical, Knoxville, were shared. 

Knoxville was to make its World Premiere in March, 2020 at Asolo Repertory Theatre. It has been rescheduled for May 21 – June 5, 2021, previews begin May 14.

Tune in to the fun, view the full interview at https://youtu.be/Ba6cf0z623s.

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Sarasota Magazine's Best of Sarasota 2020

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Our Speaking of the Arts lecture series is Sarasota Magazine's Best of Sarasota 2020 Editors' Pick for Best New Speaker Series. "We've heard fascinating insights from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop and lyricist Lynn Ahrens." Thank you, Sarasota Magazine! Read all the picks here: https://www.sarasotamagazine.com/eat-and-drink/2020/04/the-best-new-restaurants-shops-arts-experience-and-more-in-sarasota 

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Scholarship Interview: Matt Kearney, Ceramicist

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When I began researching this month's past scholar, ceramicist Matt Kearney, I was pleasantly surprised to see recognition of our Fine Arts Society of Sarasota scholarship on the 'About Me' page of Matt's Upriver Ceramics website.And when Matt sent me a photo from our 2004 awards ceremony that still hangs on the wall of his Bonita Springs art studio, it was clear that this is an artist who does not forget those that have supported him on his artistic journey."The Fine Arts Society was one of the earliest groups that recognized me as an artist and that photo I display in my studio is of me and the scholarship committee chair Nancy Stukenberg.I received so much good feedback and positive affirmations about my work that day and those comments validated my decision to pursue a career in the arts," notes Matt, adding "The financial support was very valuable as I attended a private university where tuition and expenses were significantly higher than attending a state school.Your early support and confidence in my talent were very important to me and I am happy to show The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota my appreciation on my website."

Matt was born and raised in Sarasota and was a two-time Fine Arts Society scholar.He graduated from Booker High School in 2004 and then earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Stetson University in DeLand, FL where he studied marketing and fine arts.

Matt had always been artistic growing up but his interest in ceramics didn't really take hold until high school when a family from South Korea moved into his neighborhood.When visiting the home of his new Booker High School classmates, Matt was amazed at the ceramics studio in their home.Their father was master potter Ki Woon Huh and upon seeing the artist's ceramic works, Matt says "I was blown away.I began studying one-on-one with Ki Woon Huh and he opened my eyes to the world of possibilities and creativity that could be applied to three-dimensional art through ceramics.I always knew I wanted to be an artist and ceramics enabled me to develop my own style and stand out.Although he didn't speak much English, we managed to communicate.Ki Woon Huh was my mentor and I owe him a debt of gratitude.We keep in touch and he is still a working artist at his studio in Sarasota." 

Fast forward to graduating from college when the economic recession hit and the time was not right to pursue a career as a professional artist.Matt started his own business in electronics and other work to pay the bills and those experiences have helped him learn the entrepreneurial side of business.During this time, he continued to look for studio space and found it in an unlikely place.A standup paddle board excursion led him to Riverside Park in historic downtown Bonita Springs.There he discovered a collection of small fishing cottages alongside the Imperial River.The city was accepting applications from artists and supplementing the studio rents with an art-in-public-places fund.Matt applied and was accepted and has use of an affordable private 300 square foot cottage for his studio and gallery.Other artists in the village include three oil painters, pine needle weaver and basket makers and a seashell artist. Since the cottages are located within the park, the kayak rental cottage and public events help attract people to visit the art studios.

Matt's marketing and business experience are apparent in his robust website, online newsletters, Etsy shop and social media postings on Instagram and Facebook."It takes a lot of time and discipline to maintain an internet presence, but online sales are very important as visitors to the studio in the summer months are less frequent.Additionally, a gallery in Cape Coral sells some of my small and medium pieces," says Matt.He also does pottery wheel demonstrations, accepts commission work and teaches ceramics to kids and adults in group classes and private instruction.

A significant artistic achievement was reached this past February when Matt was a selected from a field of 900 applicants to participate in the ArtFest Fort Myers juried show.He notes, "I had been a volunteer helping out at ArtFest for 7 years before applying.I had seen the success and great sales for participating artists and I was truly honored for the opportunity to exhibit my work there."

Matt welcomes our Arts Advocates members to visit him at his studio, but it's best to call or email in advance to schedule a day and time.His wide variety of works range from $8 for wheel-thrown miniature pots up to $3,500 for sculptural pieces.To view Matt's websites, click the following links:

https://www.upriverceramics.com/

http://www.upriverceramics.etsy.com/

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Scholarship Interview: Shaina Helm, Studio Art

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 SHAINA HELM – FASS Scholarship recipient in 2011

Awarded Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Art and Psychology, Florida State University - 2015 Awarded Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, University of South Florida - 2018

Like we hear so often from our Fine Arts Society Scholars, Shaina Helm's childhood was filled with access to explore and train in many aspects of the arts. She studied classical and lyrical ballet for nine years at Dance Theatre of Bradenton, stopping only when she discovered her passion for visual arts. She notes, "In elementary school I would pass the time in after-school care drawing. The positive reinforcement I received gave me encouragement to continue to develop that talent and pursue art."

Although Shaina discontinued taking ballet class, ballet images and ballerinas appear often in her work. Her painting of the three ballerinas in red raised over $1,000 when it sold at the Education
Foundation's Evening of Excellence live auction. The money raised provided funds to support the Sarasota County public school system. And in 2010, Shaina created original art in exchange for donations to raise money for Haiti Relief following the devastating earthquake. Isn't it wonderful when the arts can fund other worthy causes?

Shaina attended Booker High School and the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) program helped prepare her for studying fine art at the college level. "The curriculum at Booker allows for ½ of the school day to be for art. By the time I arrived at FSU, I already had a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of art plus the technical skills and experience that put me ahead of other students," says Shaina. She adds, "My BA degree in Studio Art is based on broad ranges of art, not just one specific focus." You can see the results of this broad scope of techniques shown on Shaina's website including oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings; ink illustrations; mixed media; pencil drawings; digital art and sculpture. The three works shown with this interview are all there, including the patterned digital self-portrait of Shaina with a snake in her hair. That work was created from a photograph and, if you're wondering, yes, Shaina did have a live snake on her head.

More recently, Shaina earned her Master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and graduated from University of South Florida in 2018. She lives in Bradenton and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst working with children ages 2-15 diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum. "I don't use art per se in my daily therapy work," she says, "but it is one of the tools in my toolbox for connecting with clients. It's important that clients like spending time with me, so when I draw a figure they like, it lays a cornerstone for the foundation of the therapy process."

"While I'm still very much a painter, my therapy work is very rewarding and commands 40-60 hours per week of my time. I created 6 or 7 new works last year and will do commissions as time allows," says Shaina. 

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Scholarship Interview: Karissa Ratzenboeck, Violinist

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KARISSA RATZENBOECK - Violinist with The Venice Symphony

December 2018

This month I am delighted to profile Karissa Ratzenboeck, a two-time FASS Scholarship recipient. First in 2008 when she attended Pine View School and then again in 2009 as a student at Florida State University. Karissa earned a Bachelor's degree in Violin Performance from FSU's College of Music and is now a violinist with The Venice Symphony. She also teaches violin by private instruction and at summer music camps to students throughout Sarasota County. 


Karissa has shared the stage with many great musicians and vocalists including Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Johnny Mathis, Kristin Chenowith, The Ten Tenors and Trans Siberian Orchestra, among others. She has also performed at Carnegie Hall – an exceptional accomplishment that many musicians never achieve in a lifetime of performing. How do you get to Carnegie Hall from Sarasota? Let's start at the beginning.

At the tender age of 4 years old, Karissa Ratzenboeck held a Suzuki violin in her tiny hands for the first time. It was placed there by her violin teacher Dr. Linda Vasilaki – and from that moment on, Karissa's life was changed forever. At the ripe age of 6, she was performing on stage with the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony. Then, after years of hard work and continuous practice, Karissa's dedication was rewarded when she won the Young Artists' Concerto Competition in 2006 and made her solo debut at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2007. Next stop, performing at Carnegie Hall as Concertmaster of the Florida West Coast Youth Philharmonic at the age of 17. When asked to describe her memories and feelings of that momentous accomplishment, Karissa recounted seeing the orchestra in place and making her entrance onto the stage alone. "I remember gorgeous gold ornamentation throughout the concert hall, the floor to ceiling curtains on the stage, the red velvet seats and the rich smell of wood from the instruments and the building itself. It was exhilarating. When you're prepared, you are not afraid or nervous. You put your heart into it and just make music."

At the tender age of 4 years old, Karissa Ratzenboeck held a Suzuki violin in her tiny hands for the first time. It was placed there by her violin teacher Dr. Linda Vasilaki – and from that moment on, Karissa's life was changed forever. At the ripe age of 6, she was performing on stage with the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony. Then, after years of hard work and continuous practice, Karissa's dedication was rewarded when she won the Young Artists' Concerto Competition in 2006 and made her solo debut at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2007. Next stop, performing at Carnegie Hall as Concertmaster of the Florida West Coast Youth Philharmonic at the age of 17. When asked to describe her memories and feelings of that momentous accomplishment, Karissa recounted seeing the orchestra in place and making her entrance onto the stage alone. "I remember gorgeous gold ornamentation throughout the concert hall, the floor to ceiling curtains on the stage, the red velvet seats and the rich smell of wood from the instruments and the building itself. It was exhilarating. When you're prepared, you are not afraid or nervous. You put your heart into it and just make music."

While Karissa's parents Harald and Monika are not musical, music was an important part of their respective family histories and they made sure it was also a part of their children's lives. Karissa's brothers Marcus and Derek are also both accomplished musicians. Derek is a violinist with New York City Ballet and Marcus is Concertmaster of The Venice Symphony. Music has been a strong lifelong connecting force for these three siblings. 

So, what is a typical day in the life of a concert violinist? "Ideally, I spend 2-3 hours practicing on my own and 3 hours of rehearsal for performances. When I play in the orchestra for the St. Petersburg Opera, that alone can be up to 6 hours of rehearsal. Professional musicians must prepare like professional athletes do…get adequate rest, take care of our bodies and keep optimally healthy to deliver the best performance."

Asking a musician to name their favorite composer is equivalent to asking a mother to tell you which of her children is her favorite (but I did it anyway!). While Karissa stopped short of narrowing the list down to just one, I did learn that for her, Bach sonatas and partitas are the gold standard and Mozart is a perennial favorite.

And now for the Full Circle Moment: Twenty years after holding her first Suzuki violin, Karissa at the age of 24 and her childhood music teacher, Dr. Linda Vasilaki, performed together professionally during Symphony on the Sand with the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra. Since that time, Dr. Vasilaki has helped Karissa to build her own private instruction program. By teaching young musicians, Karissa can now pay it forward and honor those who helped her grow in her own lifelong musical journey – Dr. Vasilaki, Daniel Jordan, Jan and Ron Balazs, Damien Pegis, Kenneth Bowermeister, Jim Cliff, Beth Newdome, Eliot Chapo and Dr. Alex Jimenez among others. Karissa enjoys working with the next generation of musicians and helping them to find their inspiration. Her message to her students is "Don't let anything stop your dreams – even financial challenges. It's not easy to make it in the arts, but if you carry the love and persistence and determination, you will get there. Even if you fail in auditions or competitions, failure is not the end – it's part of the process on the way to success."

Brava, Karissa!

Elizabeth Rose and Elaine MacMahon
Scholarship Co-Chairs
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