Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Reflections from the Artist of the Year



Tara O’Neill

On May 23, I attended an annual luncheon held by the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts (MIFA). Besides fine food from Stonewall’s Kitchen, and grand camaraderie, MIFA used the occasion to present scholarships to four extraordinary students to further their arts education, and to acknowledge MIFA’s designated 2015 Artist of the Year – yours truly.

From my heart, I thank the board members of MIFA for this kind recognition. I’m honored, and I was honored, and excited, to share the day with those bright and creative young stars…and with everyone that came to celebrate with us. What a wonderful place to live!

The group was kind enough to allow me to share some thoughts regarding what it means to me to be a working artist on Marco Island. I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you now.

As artists, we are fortunate to work in a community that has so many cultural organizations supporting and promoting our efforts to share our interpretations of the world with the world. MIFA is a known champion of bringing art to public places; Art Quest, Brushes & Paint, LeftBank ArtFest, the Library Project, and stimulating collaborations with the Marco Island Center for the Arts and Marco Island Historical Museum. All great stuff, and only part of what they do for this community.

The Island also has two theater groups; My beloved Goodland Arts Alliance, our Chamber of Commerce (Wet Paint Live!), and the recently formed Cultural Alliance of Marco Island and Goodland (CAMIG, which was formed to give all our cultural non-profits a unified voice in local and state policies – and to make sure they can all play nice together!).

We are also fortunate to have so many individual and business supporters of the arts. For me, personally, the Bozicnik family, owners of Little Bar Restaurant, the Rudolphs, owners of Red Rooster, Christy Marcoplos at Blue Mangrove Gallery, and Val Simon at Coastal Breeze News; All have been instrumental in moving my career forward. It would be difficult to tally all the work I’ve sold through their doors. Of course, I’m also grateful to everyone who has ever bought a painting from me!

I took the opportunity to encourage the scholarship winners to think outside the gallery in order to get into one (consider “gallery” a metaphor for any vehicle that pertains to a certain art form). To use creative thinking, reach out to their community and see what’s available; it is often surprising. And after finding that all-important support and encouragement, to remember that someday they would be called upon to give something back.

I am an active member of all the organizations I have mentioned (plus a few more), and I am rightly devoted to them, but, I am prouder of my work with the Goodland Arts Alliance than most any professional endeavor in my life. We are working diligently with the County, and the County with us, to procure and restore the last four fishing cottages (two of them are nearly 100 years old!) remaining at Margood Harbor Park in Goodland, and repurpose them into a village cultural center. That will last long after I’m gone.

I mentioned this at the luncheon, only because I believe to my soul that we cannot go through this world successfully, happily, without being part of something bigger than ourselves. I cautioned them to make sure that something was something they truly believed in, to choose carefully, and to check one’s motives. You may think it’s all about “networking”, but it’s not. Sincerity is paramount.

It’s easy to experience down times in an artful life, and sometimes the greatest lifts have come from folks who were generous with encouragement. So the only other suggestion I had for the folks in the room was: “Maybe you don’t have dollars to donate now, maybe you don’t have time to volunteer now, but NEVER EVER miss a chance to share a few kind words – especially with someone who is struggling. It may seem like a small thing, but the effect could be profound.


Tara O’Neill, a lifelong, award-winning, artist has been an area resident since 1967. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida and is currently represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery on Marco Island. Visit her at www.taraogallery.com.

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