Monday, December 6, 2021

You Are Stars!



Artful Life
Tara O’Neill

Today’s column is an open letter to high school art students who submitted to the recent Marco Island Center for the Arts scholarship exhibit. I am one of three jurors whose agonizing task is to select the award winners.


Dear Artists, You came from Barron Collier, the Community School of Naples, Gulf Coast High School, Lely, Marco Island Academy, Naples High, and Palmetto Ridge. Your talent and dedication are inspiring, as is your courage. And since I never get the opportunity to meet you, I am using this forum to congratulate each and every one of you on your submissions.

This is my fourth year as juror for the event, and you cannot imagine how difficult the task is. There are works that may be rough in technique, but show such an obvious originality that we know someday you will perfect your concepts and take the art world by storm. You are students inventing your own wheels. Bravo.

You students who have a lot of support, you appreciate that, you do not take it for granted, but for purpose. You students who apply yourselves under great adversity, you do not use excuses, you are fueled by your own desire. Bravo to you all.

Our jury process allows us to give seniors first, second, and third place scholarship awards, and two honorable mentions; we also give juniors first, second, and third place merit award, as well as two honorable mentions. If I could only convince you that each and every one of you are winners, are fabulous, and should never give up your pursuit of artistic excellence.

Please know that after each of these jury-sessions, my thoughts are consumed not by who received an award, but by who didn’t. I can think of no student in this year’s show who was not considered for an award. Unfortunately, life’s rules sometimes involve too few spaces for too many worthy candidates. If you did not receive an award DO NOT allow that to be a roadblock, nor a stumbling block…not even a speed bump. This is your catapult.

I know professional artists who waited too many years before their first exhibit; but with this competitive show you dove straight into the deep-end and that already puts you far ahead of their game. Might as well keep on swimming.

For four years I’ve juried this show…and for four years it has been the absolute worst experience of my year. So why do I do it? Because, frankly, I love you. I love your courage (sharing your work), your passion, your unmasked desire, your originality; I love your generosity (sharing your work!), your commitment, and the inspiration you give me.

As artists you will always have detractors…but you will also have champions. Hyla Crane, Executive Director of Marco Island Center for the Arts is one such champion. Hyla and the whole Center for the Arts team are dedicated to developing, nurturing, and supporting young artists. Stay with them, but also seek out other positive influences in your journey – they are indispensable for the emerging artist.

You are stars. Now go shine like crazy.


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


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