Thursday, October 21, 2021

The power of collaboration




Tara O’Neill

In the spirit of pure indulgence, I’d like to share some observations about working in the arts community; in particular, thoughts on the benefits of collaboration.

Example: all artists require a place to work, and a place to exhibit/perform. Three years ago it was certainly true for a group of Marco Island artists who held monthly salon meetings in the home of artist JoAnn Sanborn. At one such meeting Sanborn presented a vision she had of studios for working artists filling the vacant retail spaces at a local upscale plaza – vacancies indicative of the economic crunch of that time.

The idea was met with enthusiasm and every artist present brought their unique ideas, input, and strengths to the table. A formal presentation was prepared and delivered to the property management. Meetings were held. The Artist Colony at the Esplanade was formed. Through the pooling of resources, both intellectual and financial, and by sharing the hours necessary to ensure a stable presence, today there exists the vibrant and thriving studio-galleries of 12 artists all within a beautiful plaza that is a social, cultural, and business hub here on Marco Island.

Collaboration. Another example: The Marco Players has a small but charming theater in Marco’s Town Center. Beverly Dahlstrom, president of the TMP, contacted Colony artist Karen Swanker with the idea of enhancing the walls of the theater with a rotating exhibit of art by Colony artists. Karen is also involved with TMP alongside her husband, Jim, the mighty set designer and master carpenter. Sound thought, the presence of quality art has proven its power to enhance the entire night-at-the-theater experience.

Privileged to attend the preview of the current show, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, I sat with the many volunteers who put their hearts, souls, and talents into creating the production. The performance was, essentially, for them. The theater is indeed charming, and how lovely to enjoy fine, local-made art on the way to our seats. A delightful start to a promising evening. Definitely a successful collaboration.

The show was laugh-out-loud funny. It was smart, quick, and the bright cast of four left no time for pauses. Bravo!

The set had integrity right down to the smallest details (where did they find that rotary-dial telephone?) The staggering amount of collaboration necessary to create this one theatrical piece was impressive. Beyond the writer, director, and actors, is a tiny army of volunteers: lighting and sound experts, carpenters, designers, painters, wardrobe specialists and sewing-elves, prop masters, and wizards of hair and make-up. All artists in their own right and all lending their particular talents to create what basically amounts to a single work of art.

When we go to the theater, we know the spotlights don‘t move on their own, sets are built, costumes sewn. But generally our attention is engaged with a performance. Sitting there, surrounded by all the people who make it happen, was special. I am in awe of them.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers runs through the end of April; go enjoy an evening of magic – start to finish. (And, at intermission, don’t forget to thank the hospitality volunteers.) Perhaps like me, you will look forward to seeing next year’s productions, and possibly be inspired by the power of collaboration. and

Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors’ Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through

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