Spotlight on Florida Heritage Month

by Jennifer Hoesing


Each year Florida celebrates its heritage with Florida Heritage Month, March 15 to April 15. Throughout the month, Florida residents and visitors will have special opportunities to experience and embrace the many historical sites, cultural activities and literary programs throughout the state. The activities are intended to help residents and visitors gain an understanding and appreciation of Florida’s commitment to supporting historic preservation, arts and culture, and libraries that create economic vitality, enhance quality of life and instill community pride.  Residents and visitors can find more information about Florida Heritage Month and related events at

From now until the close of Florida Heritage Month on April 15, we’ll be featuring some of the people and places that contribute to Florida’s cultural legacy. Join us for this Florida Heritage blogging blitz!

Art Talk: Colleen Duffley

by Heather Stuyverson

Today’s “Art Talk” features Colleen Duffley, an Panhandle-based professional photographer who has been photographing people, places, and things for more than 28 years. Colleen’s creative and vibrant spirit has brought artistic inspiration to Florida and beyond.

Colleen Duffley knows a lot about success in today’s arts marketplace.

Colleen Duffley (image submitted)

Her professional photography business and arts organization are both known for bringing artistic opportunity and vision to scenic 30A in the Florida Panhandle. “In order be a successful artist in this world you have to be a great business person as well,” Colleen told me in an email interview late last year. “You have to be well spoken to get your message across and to grow the concepts and ideas that you, as an artist, believe in.”

Colleen’s concepts, ideas and messages are indeed successful. With Colleen Duffley Productions, her professional photography business, she shoots, produces, directs, and designs advertising concepts. She has made a name for herself in the field of photography, with clients including Neiman Marcus, Traditional Home magazine and Carnival Cruise Lines.  Colleen says photography has given her the opportunity to meet the most amazing people and see the most incredible places.  She says, “I have often truly pinched myself, thinking, ‘I’m getting paid to do this?’”

photograph by Colleen Duffley (submitted by the artist)

In addition to her photography business, Colleen also owns and operates Studio b. Studio b. brings together the best of the best in the fields of photography, art, design, literature, food, and wine by hosting seminars, classes, and lectures.

Workshop at Studio b. (submitted by Colleen Duffley)

Studio b. also serves as an art gallery throughout the year and is currently featuring an exhibit entitled “Light Impressions: A Celebration of iPhone® Photography.” The exhibit features the curated work of 40 iPhoneographers from around the world, with their work showcased on 40 iPad 2® units.  Colleen says this is the first iPhone® photography exhibit of its kind, and there are plans to tour the exhibit internationally.

Light Impressions at Studio b. (submitted by Colleen Duffley)

At the end of the day, Colleen says her business ventures have helped her become a focused, resilient and disciplined person. Colleen summed it all up, saying that her work in the arts is truly a part of her. “Working hard and being creative defines who I am as an individual.”

Postcard from Martin County: Waterfront Wednesdays

submitted by Nancy Turrell, Executive Director at the Arts Council

The Arts Council of Martin County & Sunset Bay Marina invite you to come by land or sea to Waterfront Wednesdays at Sunset Bay, a weekly arts and fine handcrafts show featuring local artisans.  This new waterfront, sunset and sea focused event is a great opportunity during the Holiday Season to buy, hand crafted holiday gifts for everyone on your shopping list. The marina sets a perfect stage for select artisans to display their finest works portraying Stuart’s connection to the ocean, inlets, rivers, waterways, bays and lakes.

Visitors and arts patrons visit some of the artists booths at the inaugural Waterfront Wednesdays at Sunset Bay. Featured artists represent a variety of media including literature, painting, jewelry-making and photography. Photo Credit: Tom Winter

Enjoy art, music and nature’s stunning sunsets over the St. Lucie every Wednesday from 4 p.m. until sunset.  This free-to-the-public event includes free parking on and off site, shuttle service, valet parking, and dockage on the marina transient and dinghy docks.  Larger vessels may use the fuel dock after 5 p.m.

Participating artists include photographer Eric Wickstrom, painters Ruthann Hewson, Linda Schoppmeyer, and Bruce Wells; jewelers Francia Yaffe and Sam Uberbaum, clay artist Kym Sheppard, textile artist Judy Nichols.  The line up of artists will vary each week to offer an array of styles and genre, keeping the event interesting even for the most dedicated guest.  A variety of performers will be integrated in the event as it matures offering music, storytelling and other engaging experiences.

Patrons view the wide array of Palm City artist, Ruthann Hewson. Hewson is an award-winning “realistic impressionist” oil painter who grew up in Massachusetts but has resided in Martin County since the 1970s. Photo Credit: Tom Winter

Waterfront Wednesday was launched on November 16 in partnership with the Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage in order to offers a weekly opportunity for artists to meet new customers and for residents and visitors alike to enjoy our natural beauty and the artists’ creativity.  As the designated local arts agency for Martin County, the Arts Council believes strongly in providing enhancements to our arts environment that allow artists to thrive as professionals and to provide opportunities for visitors and residents to engage in the arts.  This event will grow over time and will provide a positive economic impact to downtown Stuart, the participating artists and the sponsoring businesses.

Patrons shop at the jewelry created by “Clayworks” by Kym Shepard. Each week Waterfront Wednesdays at Sunset Bay’s Facebook page announces the artists and entertainment that will make that night special and unique. Photo Credit: Tom Winter

While speaking of economic impact, The Arts & Economic Prosperity III report provides compelling evidence that the nonprofit arts and culture are a significant industry in Martin County – one that generates $16.8 million in local economic activity. This spending – $12 million by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and an additional $4.7 million in event-related spending by their audiences – supports 456 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $9.9 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $1.4 million in local and state government revenue. This economic impact study sends a strong signal that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in Martin County’s economic well-being.

The Arts Council of Martin County provides services to visual and performing artists, arts organizations, students and the public.  The Arts Council believes that the arts are a basic and vital component to an individual’s development and life fulfillment.   Programs and services of the Arts Council cultivate and celebrate the values of artistic appreciation, creativity and freedom of expression.  The Arts Council encourages programs that create opportunities for artists and arts organizations to strengthen their resources and reach all segments of our community.  For more information, please call 772-287-6676 or visit  The Arts Council is sponsored in part by the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Stuart, Martin County Board of County Commissioners, and private contributions.

Five questions for Victor Merriam, VSA Florida Young Soloist

by Jennifer Hoesing

VSA Florida sponsors the Florida Young Soloists program, now in its fifth year. A statewide call for musicians and vocalists with disabilities age 25 and under is sent each spring. Three prominent music professionals adjudicate the applications and select the top two as Florida’s nominations to the VSA International Young Soloists program. The Florida finalists appear with the Florida Orchestra. Today we have five questions for Victor Merriam, one of this year’s Young Soloists.

Victor Merriam

DCA: What do you enjoy most about making music?
Victor: The thing that I enjoy the most about making music is probably the unparalleled freedom and beauty which accompanies it, where you can express yourself in beautiful ways that words never could grasp.

DCA: Why do you think it is important for people to make music?
Victor: I think it’s important for people to make music, because, like any other form of art, it’s a beautiful thing that could fade away if people just stop doing it one day.
Why are music and art important to Florida?

DCA: Do you think you will always perform music?
Victor: I believe I will always be performing music; there’s no describing the happiness it can bring to change peoples lives with what you do.

DCA: Who are your favorite musicians or artists?
Victor: Some of my favorite musicians/artists are (in no specific ranking) Valentina Lisitsa, Andre Rieu, Serge Tankian, Victor Wooten, Max Bemis, Andrea Bocelli, Salvadore Dali and Vincent van Gogh.

DCA: Why are music and art important to Florida?
Victor: Music and art are vital to parts of the economy and culture in Florida; there is an extremely large musical and artistic scene in many areas around the state, music is part of its culture since some styles of rock even originated in Tampa Bay (which continues is a melting pot for artists and musicians).

Art Talk: EcoArt South Florida

by Jennifer Hoesing

EcoArt on the West Palm Beach waterfront. Michael Singer served as the primary designer of this project, completed in 2010. This work is a significant example of the cross disciplinary work of a sculptor who has been doing large scale infrastructure related environmentally sensitive art for decades. (photo submitted by EcoArt South Florida)

Today’s Art Talk is a conversation with EcoArt South Florida. EcoArt is a multi- and cross-disciplinary practice that weds art with the best environmental science and community engagement.

A graduate of EcoArt South Florida's pilot apprenticeship program, Stuart artist Jesse Etelson works with Audubon Society staff and volunteers in providing sculptural bird nesting shelters in areas where removal of exotic trees has damaged avian habitat. (photo submitted by EcoArt South Florida)

DCA: Tell us about EcoArt South Florida.
EcoArt South Florida: EcoArt South Florida encourages broad support for environmental stewardship within communities by involving citizens of all ages and demonstrating innovative and aesthetically striking ways to create and save energy, reduce heat island effect, capture and reuse stormwater and many other positive approaches to enhancing the health of our interrelated ecosystems. EcoArt (short for ecological art) is not a new art practice. It is only new here in Florida!

Volunteers collect seeds as a part of EcoArtist Xavier Cortada's installation on Lincoln Road in Miami. Cortada is a multitalented artist whose projects to restore Florida's urban canopies and mangrove stands are large scale performance pieces involving hundreds of non artist volunteers, government agencies and philanthropic organizations. (photo submitted by EcoArt South Florida)

Cortada's EcoArt installation on Lincoln Road in Miami. (photo submitted by EcoArt South Florida)

DCA: How does EcoArt encourage the public, and in particular, elected officials, to incorporate arts and culture into everyday life?
EcoArt South Florida: EcoArt South Florida intends to assist targeted communities to establish “EcoArt Nodes” in each of South Florida’s five watersheds by 2015. We define an EcoArt Node as
a committed group of stakeholders, with a strong organization at its center (either as its own nonprofit, or as a subunit of an existing organization) dedicated to growing EcoArt and supporting emerging EcoArtists in their locale. An important stakeholder group that must always be included as each EcoArt Node is established, are elected and career officials of municipal and county governments.

The locations for our EcoArt Nodes have been scientifically identified by our GIS study of all five watersheds in South Florida, completed for us by Dartmouth College’s department of geography undergraduate students, Spring, 2011.

EcoArt South Florida’s comprehensive community education program and artist apprenticeship is specifically designed to engage key communities in best ways to establish and support strong EcoArt practices in their areas. We will work with the communities identified as EcoArt Nodes to field this program which will be the basis for ongoing development and support of EcoArt practice.

In addition to establishment of targeted EcoArt Nodes, starting in early 2012, EcoArt South Florida Board and Advisory Committee members will begin to meet where they live, with county and city officials.

To date, the only municipality in Florida we are aware of that has done this is Boynton Beach. Credit goes to Boynton’s Mayor and Commissioners for establishing a Green Alliance of local citizens involved in Green urban and community development that recommended key elements of a Green Ordinance for the city. EcoArt South Florida was a member of this alliance. The resulting new ordinance Includes mention of EcoArt at various places. We are delighted to encourage our city and county officials to follow the lead of Boynton Beach in assuring that EcoArt is included as their communities develop creative ways to “go green.”

Follow the link to learn more about how EcoArt has been integrated into Boynton’s many new green initiatives, please contact the administrator of Art in Public Places Debby Coles-Dobay.

Jackie Brookner (NY) and Angelo Ciotti (PA) are EcoArtists embedded in design team for restoration of West Palm Beach's largest urban green space, Dreher Park, revamped from 2002-2005 to expand water retention. Features "BioSculpture" (tm) in new retention pond which cleans waters with plants on the sculpture's surface, sculptural earthen mounds reminiscent of indigenous people's shell mounds, created from dirt excavated to create a large new retention pond, and a learning garden featuring plants used by inhabitants over a thousand year period to the present. (photo submitted by EcoArt South Florida)

DCA: What does EcoArt do for South Florida?

EcoArt South Florida: EcoArt practice has many identities. All contribute to the community. Most involve the community at every level of the planning, design and creation of EcoArt projects.

In addition to our consultations with communities we have identified as EcoArt Nodes, and continuing to develop our pilot community education and artist apprenticeship program, EcoArt South Florida is also currently working on three program aspects that we believe have great potential for inspiration, education and engagement of the public:

  1. First, the integration of Public EcoArt at the design stage of urban buildings and neighborhoods that will be seeking LEED or other green certification. EcoArt South Florida is working with the South Florida chapter of the US Green Building Council on this.
  2. Secondly, engaging EcoArt with greening the public schoolyard. EcoArt South Florida has been reaching out to public school districts, teachers and administrators through the annual LEARN GREEN conferences; and we are in the process of working with a math and science middle school to develop what will probably be the first comprehensive outdoor classroom in South Florida.
  3. And finally, modeling a new kind of urban streetscape featuring a variety of Florida native canopy trees (instead of the “monoculture” approach currently used) and understory vegetation that encourages the return of pollinators and birds. EcoArt South Florida is involved with a consortium of organizations developing a pilot of this kind of streetscape. Our partners include the grass roots West Palm Beach organization Northwood GREENlife that is taking the lead, the Palm Beach chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, 1000 Friends of Florida and the Center for Creative Education. In addition to the creation of a multiple-species Florida native urban forest pilot streetscape that can be replicated widely, the project will also incorporate arts: sculpture, ceramics, video, storytelling, performance and a community celebratory procession/parade once the planting has been completed.

EcoArt South Florida believes EcoArt will not prosper in our region unless public officials, both elected and career, and our colleagues in the building, development and planning professions are given incentives to do so. It is for this reason that we will be focusing heavily over the next year to two years on insertion of EcoArt within city and county green ordinances as has been done in Boynton Beach.

DCA: What does the future of EcoArt hold for Florida?
EcoArt South Florida: We believe Florida can become one of the key centers for EcoArt practice. EcoArt South Florida is dedicated to making this happen. And this is as it should be. As we point out on our website, engagement of art and culture with environmental issues is still not widely done anywhere, not only in Florida. This is a shame, because, as those of us involved in the arts professions know well, art has the potential to inspire, educate and engage in so many ways. This inspiration and engagement will be necessary if we are to address successfully the many serious implications of climate change. And we have very little time to do this. Art is a form of knowledge, just as important as science. Unfortunately art and artists have not been adequately engaged with science in the struggle to bring our valuable ecologies back to health. Now is the time to bring EcoArt to the task.

DCA: Why do you believe arts and culture are important in the lives of Floridians and visitors to our state?
EcoArt South Florida: Art creates culture and has for as long as human being have inhabited the earth. The best time to have begun to bring art to the task of healing our fragile ecologies was many decades ago. The second best time is now. Florida needs us. The planet needs us. Let’s get to work applying artistic imagination and creativity in tandem with scientific advances to the challenges that face us.

Spotlight on Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra

by Jennifer Hoesing

High-achieving FSYO Students backstage at Orlando’s Amway Center with Josh Groban (photo submitted by FSYO)

Just last week, the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra (FSYO) in Orlando announced its recent donation from multi-platinum singer-songwriter Josh Groban’s Find Your Light Foundation. FSYO is one of just 30 arts education nonprofit organizations selected for the honor. The Find Your Light Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of young people through arts, education and cultural awareness.

“Ensuring every child has the opportunity to experience an arts education is very important to me,” said Groban said in a press release about the donation. “FSYO shares this goal…and it gives me great pleasure to highlight the work they do.”

Groban was in Orlando at The Amway Arena to perform on last month as part of his “Straight To You” worldwide tour running through November. The tour supports his recent and fifth studio album, ‘Illuminations.’ The album has already been certified platinum in the U.S. Its No. 4 debut on Billboard’s Top 200 chart is Groban’s fourth consecutive Top 5 chart bow.

Spotlight on a Teacher’s Thoughts on Arts Education

by Jennifer Hoesing

During National Arts in Education Week 2010, we asked art teachers to share their thoughts about arts education. Joy Williams, an art teacher at Diplomat Middle School in Cape Coral, submitted these thoughts. Diplomat Middle School is an Arts Achieve! Model School.

[Last year] as I watched the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I marveled at the athletes’ dedication, their perseverance against all odds, and the sustained practice they endure to shave seconds off the clock. That same drive to outperform one’s personal best is what is needed to become a great artist!  Therefore, it is fitting that our children will visit the new Art of the Olympians’ museum in Fort Myers.

This September I’m stopping to reflect on the impact of arts education in the lives of children.

In my observation, creating art develops a child’s eye/hand coordination, motor skills and spatial judgment.

Creating art develops a child’s intellectual creativity, memory recall and a willingness to attempt new challenges.  These creative problem-solving skills are used not only by artists, but inventors and entrepreneurs as well.

Art class is also a time for positive social interaction and a healthy exchange of ideas among students.  Art students learn to respect classmates and diverse points of view.