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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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Scholarship Interview: Marcus Ratzenboeck, Concertmaster of The Venice Symphony

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Past scholarship recipient Marcus Ratzenboeck is an accomplished and versatile musician with a successful career as a performing and recording artist.He has a recording studio, H&M Productions, and is currently in his 3rd season as concertmaster of The Venice Symphony.

Marcus was first introduced to playing music as a 9-year-old attending elementary school in Chicago where it was mandatory that all students play an instrument.Although he wanted to play saxophone, his hands were too small so he switched to guitar and eventually the violin.When Marcus' family moved to Sarasota a few years later he began private lessons with Miltiades Siadimas, a renowned violin soloist.Marcus credits his lessons with Mr. Siadimas as crucial to his development as a musician and notes, "Compared to other young musicians, I was relatively late in taking up the violin at age 11.My intensive studies with Mr. Siadimas during 2-hour lessons three times a week really helped me to catch up.Miltiades Siadimas was more than a teacher; he was my mentor."

After attending high school at Riverview and Booker VPA, our Fine Arts Society Scholarship helped support Marcus as he continued his studies at Florida State University, earning his Bachelor's of Music degree in 1996.From there he attended Indiana University and was awarded his Master's of Music degree in 1999.He was concertmaster of the IU Symphony and the Columbus, IN Philharmonic and appointed Principal Second Violin of The Louisville (KY) Orchestra.He was also an Adjunct Professor of Violin at the University of Louisville, a member of the acclaimed Louisville String Quartet and Concertmaster of The Louisville Bach Society.

As I have learned from interviewing other past scholars in the classical music field, there are many talented musicians all vying for very few positions.Marcus' advice to musicians coming out of school is to "be diverse and try new things beyond playing classical music.Exploring new software, technology and digital music are important and the professional musicians of tomorrow will benefit by having experience composing, forming ensembles and branching out into other genres." ​

Marcus has participated in numerous music festivals including Tanglewood, American Institute of Musical Studies (Graz, Austria), Sarasota Music Festival, Hirosaki Chamber Music Festival (Japan), and he served as concertmaster of Spoleto (USA) for several seasons.His professional experience also includes an impressive recording and touring career in a rock band along with work for several major and independent record labels and publishers.Marcus states, "Playing electric violin in a successful touring rock band is a completely different life than performing with an orchestra.After several years, I was ready to get back to my classical music roots, so I returned to Sarasota in 2012.I had to get back to serious practicing, full 5-hour days.I was subbing for orchestras here and played with The Florida Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, and St. Petersburg Opera. It took several years to get back to concertmaster, but I look forward to continuing an era of fine musicianship with The Venice Symphony."

The role of concertmaster is critically important to an orchestra.This musician is first chair violin and must know all of the music and all of the parts very well and work with the music director (conductor) to create a cohesive performance.A wonderful opportunity to see and hear Marcus perform with The Venice Symphony takes place on Saturday, May 23rd at 7:30pm.It's an outdoor Patriotic Pops concert at CoolToday Park, the Atlanta Braves spring training baseball facility in North Port.Gather your friends for a lovely spring night at the ball park listening to popular American classics.Click here for more information:

https://www.thevenicesymphony.org/patriotic-pops-2020/

Photo Credits: Elliott Corn

Author's Note:If the last name Ratzenboeck sounds familiar, it is because Marcus' brother, Derek, and sister, Karissa, are also past Fine Arts Society scholarship recipients and professional violinists.Derek plays in the New York City Ballet Orchestra and Karissa performs with Marcus in The Venice Symphony. 

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Scholarship Interview: Adelaide Boedecker, Soprano

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Adelaide Boedecker made her professional debut as Barbarina in Sarasota Opera's production of The Marriage of Figaro at the age of 17 while still a high school student at Pine View School for the Gifted. She was the first youth to ever be cast as a principal in the Sarasota Opera and became a two-time FASS scholar in 2008 and 2010. Adelaide is a shining example of the successes our talented Sarasota County student artists and performers can achieve with our support. She is the winner of the Santa Fe Opera Anna Case MacKay Award; winner of the National Opera Association competition, scholarship division; and second place winner of the American Prize competition for professional singers. Her talent has been recognized by opera critics throughout the country:

"Soprano Adelaide Boedecker set the tone for the excellence of Pittsburgh Opera's cast. Throughout the opera, Boedecker negotiated her part's high tessitura with flair and ample power, and offered more dulcet tones for her character's mainly gentle interpersonal manner."
-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review February, 2016

"Only soprano Adelaide Boedecker's Despina, whose urgent vocal performance was matched with a delightfully tough, sharp-edged portrayal, proved consistently interesting to watch."
-Opera News August, 2016

"Adelaide Boedecker is a reason to see the production…her singing is clear, direct and invigorating - - beautiful, without asking for attention."
-The San Jose Mercury News July, 2014

Adelaide is a former resident artist with the Pittsburgh Opera and was also an apprentice artist with the Santa Fe Opera performing as Ida in Die Fledermaus and Chorus Soloist in Santa Fe's world premiere of (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Adelaide was also apprentice artist with the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco where she performed the roles of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire and Despina in Così fan tutte. She has also performed with Opera Birmingham, Syracuse Opera, Hilton Head Choral Society, Opera Las Vegas, the Music Academy of the West in Montecito and our own Sarasota Opera.

Asked to share her earliest memories of singing, Adelaide recalls "Singing in the choir at Church of the Redeemer when I was a child. My two older sisters were in the choir and I wanted to be just like them. Then I saw a production of Arabica by the Sarasota Youth Opera. I loved the huge coffee bean costume and knew that I wanted to sing on stage. So, the summer after second grade I started doing youth opera and continued through high school. When Sarasota Opera's Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi had me perform with professional singers in The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britton, it occurred to me that I could possibly sing professionally. Up to that point, I thought I would become a lawyer."

Two scholarships from the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota provided financial assistance to Adelaide when she attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. There she earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. She then attended graduate school in Rochester at the Eastman School of Music and earned her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature. In addition to her core vocal curriculum, Adelaide took extra classes in acting and dance and performed in musical theater. "That training helped me to learn about blending acting and singing so I could convey my character's emotion physically while still maintaining control my voice. In a large theater, the audience may not always be able to see my face, but the way I move can help them understand what is happening internally for the character," notes Adelaide. She adds, "Eastman's Arts Leadership Program and Opera America's Career Blueprints have given me significant insight into 501(c)3 organizations and the business aspect of the arts and music. Grant writing class, website development, resume writing, auditions, branding, media, publicity and more have all been incredibly helpful in my career to date."

"It wasn't until I moved away from Sarasota that I realized how fortunate I was to grow up in a community that focused on the arts and gave opportunities for children to learn and participate. Those programs are the foundation that my career is built upon and to be able to complete my education without the tremendous debt of student loans is a wonderful gift that you have given me", notes Adelaide.

 Adelaide and her husband, Calvin Griffin, reside in Atlanta. Calvin also sings opera and the two have recently completed Audition Season in NYC. Audition Season is to performing arts what Pilot Season is to television programming. Theatre Companies from around the country descend on New York City and, from mid-November through mid-December, they audition talent to cast in performances the following year. Each day, vocalists can sing for several companies from throughout the United States.

"The opera community is a small, tight-knit group. It's a somewhat nomadic existence, but we're all in it together. My husband and I both approach our careers as a full-time professional job. My main goal is to continue to have a career singing professionally and that goal requires so much more than just showing up and performing. Every day we actively work on music, dialogue, translating the opera, etc. Our livelihood is contract-to-contract and proper preparation on each job can help secure the next job. Cultivating contacts and maintaining a reputation as a professional are critical" says Adelaide.

"I love the classic operas and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is my favorite, but I also enjoy new works where the audience doesn't already know where the story is going and really immerse themselves in the performance. Each person's voice is unique, like a thumbprint, and the greatest compliment is when someone writes a new work hearing your voice in their mind."

In April, Adelaide and her husband Calvin will be in Columbus, Ohio performing in Opera Swings Jazz. This innovative program will combine arias with musicals and jazz and appeal to several cross-over audiences. It's being written now and there will be 4 vocalists accompanied by an orchestra and jazz ensemble.

Adelaide is thrilled to be returning to the Sarasota Opera as an adult this spring when she will be performing the role of Pamina in The Magic Flute on March 1, 2019. For performance and ticket information, click here: https://tickets.sarasotaopera.org/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=3161

To view and listen to Adelaide performing on YouTube, click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCegiuALajnYmrz_fx_XX7ow

To visit Adelaide's website, click here: https://www.adelaideboedecker.com/

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Scholarship Interview: Max Landow, Fine Arts

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​MAX LANDO THEN: Fine Arts Scholar 2005 and 2006 majoring in Theatre Studies at the University of Central Florida

MAX LANDO NOW: Institutional Giving Manager at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago

Max Lando is a 2005 graduate of Booker High School and a two-time Fine Arts Scholar when he attended the University of Central Florida.  Our FASS Scholarship program booklet noted that Max 'is an excellent student in both his academic and theatre classes and does many hours of backstage work in preparation for productions at UCF.  Max has proven himself worth fighting for and is creative, talented and works extremely hard while understanding priorities.  Max dreams of having his own theatre one day – in Sarasota!

When asked recently what the Fine Arts Society Scholarship meant to him,  Max simply answered, "It meant everything."  He added, "Even though I went to college in-state and had additional scholarships,  the reality is that I am still paying off student loans at 31 years of age.  It would have been so much harder to get through school and beyond without the support of the Fine Arts Society and other scholarship organizations."  Max graduated with honors from UCF in 2009 having earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Studies with a Minor in Creative Writing.

In 2010 Max began his career back in Sarasota where he was Manager and Development Assistant for WRITE A PLAY at Florida Studio Theatre.  His responsibilities included managing the $80,000 operating budget, direct and subscription ticket sales and assisting the Development Director in securing individual, corporate and foundation giving in excess of $1,000,000.  While working in the FST box office that summer, he met (his now wife) Stephanie who was in Sarasota from Connecticut performing in WRITE A PLAY productions.

Having been a participant in the WRITE A PLAY program as a youngster, it was a full-circle moment for Max when, in 2011, he and Stephanie co-founded MaineStage Shakespeare in Kennebunk, Maine.  Max capitalized on his operational experience at FST to bring live theatre to children in an area that didn't have much arts-based education.  "Witnessing first-hand what theater can do for kids was very rewarding.   Often the 5 to 8-year-old participants were shy and didn't talk much.  Teaching them to write and perform really helped them find their voice and see themselves in a new way,"  says Max.

Next stop, New York City and co-writing/co-starring with his sister, Rebecca, in the YouTube online culinary video series Working Class Foodies – and 2 years working in Barnes & Noble bookstore honing his salesmanship skills and helping to pay the bills.  After a few years living in New York City Max and Stephanie relocated to Chicago in 2013.

Fast forward to 2018 and Max is the Institutional Giving Manager at the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company,  nown across the globe for innovative and artist-driven productions.  As noted on their website, Steppenwolf operates as a not-for-profit organization relying on community support to produce or present nearly 700 performances, readings and other events annually.  The theatre's artistic and educational programs attract multi-generational audiences of nearly 200,000 theatergoers.  They are committed to year-round programming that engages their audiences with thought-provoking productions that help develop new plays, new audiences and new artists for the future of American theater.  As we know, all of this takes money…lots of money. And that's where Max and the Steppenwolf Development Department staff come in - they are in the business of raising money for the arts.

When asked about the challenges of creating a continuous pipeline of funding for the theatre, Max commented that, while Steppenwolf is fortunate to receive year-over-year funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the overall reduction in government financial support and fewer grant opportunities have had a tremendous negative effect on the financial health of arts organizations all over this country.   As a result, the reliance on corporate giving and individual donors has increased.

Steppenwolf's Outreach and Education programs remind Max of what the arts can do for kids and as someone who grew up in Sarasota's arts-centric community, Max knows firsthand that the arts can change lives.  And speaking of kids and changing lives, Max and his wife Stephanie have just welcomed their newborn baby boy, Ezra, into the world - "Our finest production to date,"  said the proud father.   And with Max's parents still living in Sarasota, when asked if the dream of having his own theatre in Sarasota was still on his 'To Do' list, he enthusiastically replied "Yes! I still follow the theatre scene in Sarasota and the productions put on by Urbanite Theatre are along the lines of what I envision for myself.  They consistently tap into the new style of theatre productions that are taking place nationally and internationally. Edgy, bold and modern."

The Fine Arts Society has much to be proud of in Max's success and his contributions to the world of performing arts.   Congratulations, Max, and we look forward to you and Stephanie introducing Baby Ezra to our city someday soon!

To learn more about the Steppenwolf Theatre, please click this link: https://www.steppenwolf.org/About-Us

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Scholarship Interview: Amanda Kai Newman, Artist & Costume Designer

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This month's article features costume designer and artist Amanda Kai Newman, a multi-year FASS scholarship recipient having earned awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010.   Amanda attended Booker High School and was also an intern in the costume department at the Asolo Repertory Theater.  She then earned her BA degree in Art and Theater from Cornell College in Iowa and her MFA in Costume Design from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2010 Amanda interned for six-time Tony Award winning costume designer William Ivey Long, 'one of the most influential Broadway Costume Designers of today'.   Amanda presently lives and works in New York City and has contributed as Costume Production Assistant, Milliner, Stitcher, Silk Painter and more.   Productions of note include the 2017 film The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum;  2016 television series Crisis in Six Scenes written/directed by and starring Woody Allen;  Wynn Las Vegas show La Reve (The Dream) voted Best Production Show for 8 consecutive years; as well as various Shakespeare Festivals.  Her most recent work has been as costume coordinator on the Fox television series 'Gotham' and shopper and receipt organizer for the upcoming Broadway Musical 'Tootsie'.  Upcoming work includes being shopper and swatcher on 'NOS4A2', a new television series on AMC network and milliner work (based in NYC) making hats for the Asolo Repertory Theater's coming production of 'The Music Man'.

To learn more about Amanda and view examples of her work, visit her website by clicking www.amandakainewman.com and read a recent profile about her by Cornell College https://news.cornellcollege.edu/2018/03/costuming-the-stars-report/.

Amanda recently expressed her appreciation to FASS stating, "Being recognized by the culturally rich and artistic community in Sarasota helped me pursue my passion in costume design."

Amanda continues to study and evolve as an artist.  She enjoys ceramics and studied in Europe with an assistantship at La Meridiana ceramics school in Certaldo, Italy.

Elizabeth Rose email: elizabeth.rose@premiersir.com

Elaine MacMahon email: elainemacmahon@gmail.com

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Salon : A Tour of Jim Craig and Randy Johnson Painting Collection

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 On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, we were invited to the home of Jim Craig and Randy Johnson for a tour of their painting collection comprising mainly 18th- and 19th-century American and European portraits and landscapes. The portraits range from famous actresses to society playboys, famous musicians, and military heroes, as well as characters from Shakespeare and classical antiquity. Jim and Randy's collection of antique furniture provides an ideal setting for the paintings, many of which are in their original gilt frames. Jim's encyclopedic knowledge of American art made him an exceptionally entertaining guide.

This was no ordinary open house as it included an extravagant buffet of refreshments. The eclecticism of the collection makes it a time capsule of colonial and Civil War America. And like the National Gallery in Washington this collection has its Modern wing full of surprises. Not only was the art exceptional, but so was the warm hospitality of the hosts.

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The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc. is a “501© (3) Nonprofit Tax-Exempt Organization licensed in 1969- a charity for Education/School Systems services.” PURPOSE: The organization promotes, encourages, supports and generally furthers the best interests of the arts in Florida and in particular, recognizes, honors and perpetuates the fine arts, creative products and works of Florida artists.

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