Art of the Treasure Coast
From hurricanes to recessions, the A.E. Backus Museum and Gallery has weathered many storms in its 60-year history. But perhaps nothing has challenged its survival more than the pandemic.
As the oldest continually operating art institution on the Treasure Coast, the museum depends on community support and its popular events like the Backus Brunch for fundraising. That was all jeopardized when the museum, like everything else, closed to the public on March 16.
As a young photographer on his first big newspaper assignment, Jon Kral knew what he had to do to get the shot. He strapped himself to the outside of a Stearman Double crop duster plane while his subject skimmed over orange trees in a plume of chemicals.
That photograph of the colorful Fort Pierce crop duster Harold Williams sealed Kral’s fate. From then on, the camera would always be with him and he would always go the extra mile to get the shot he wanted.
When Vero Beach Museum of Art’s new senior curator, Anke Van Wagenberg, lined up one of her favorite artists for an exhibition this fall, she had no idea that a pandemic would shutter the museum and change much of the way it operates.
But as it turns out, the work of the internationally-acclaimed South Korean-born Baltimore resident Chul Hyun Ahn could not have been a better choice for a world restricted and changed by a pandemic.
His sculptures created with light and mirrors and other objects offer a window into the infinite.
The performing arts season comes roaring back with the beginning of the new year after many 2020 shows were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Full CDC safety requirements will be met by all theaters, including deep cleaning and sanitizing, masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing and more. Each theater’s website will provide details.
2021 promises to be a very busy year for show- and concert-goers with a jam-packed schedule that includes some of the postponed events.
Kathleen Carbonara says she knew since kindergarten that she wanted to be an artist. One look at the “pink carnation” in the Crayola box and she was smitten.
“It looked so good to me, I ate it,” she recalls.
But it wasn’t until decades later that she began painting, making a successful career as a portrait artist with works in more than 40 private collections, including the University of Notre Dame, along with pursuing a number of other subjects and themes, such as still lifes, that interest her.
It has been nearly 50 years since a young black man was shot and later died on a hot August night in a modest little bar on Avenue D in Fort Pierce. He might have been forgotten, except that he left a curious legacy that was to live on long after his death.
Alfred Hair was an artist, and his paintings of turquoise seas, peach clouds and scarlet royal poinciana trees, along with the thousands more created by his friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances, became the signature works of the 26 African-American artists who were later called the Florida Highwaymen.
Main Street America programs throughout the country have painted their blighted downtown districts with murals, but few have elevated their artwork to the degree of the Eau Gallie Arts District. The provocative murals and sculptures have created a genuine outdoor art museum. More than 30 thought-provoking murals grace the sides of historic buildings housing eclectic shops, art galleries and restaurants. The revitalized arts district, quaintly nestled within the live oak-lined streets, has breathed new life into the authentic original neighborhood of Eau Gallie established in 1860.
Once again Treasure Coast theater-goers can expect a blockbuster season with shows that can transport them to a different place — one where the internet, the phone, the worries don’t intrude.
There is nothing like the sound of 50 to 100 professional musicians playing in perfect harmony. The melodic songs of the strings and the mystical tones of the woodwinds contrast with the resonant brass and powerful percussions, yet their movement and tempos stir emotions from deep within the soul. The Brevard Symphony Orchestra has been performing live symphonic music that leaves the audience breathless for more than 65 years.
From one of the most interesting artists working on the international scene to beloved local artists who gained fame painting the area’s natural beauty to an interactive exhibit focused on the human body, Treasure Coast art museums promise something for everyone this upcoming season.
In the dozen or so years since Italian artist Ivo David settled in Vero Beach, his work has made its way into galleries, museums and private collections along the Treasure Coast. In 2009, David’s colorful interpretation of community festivities in downtown Vero Beach won the first fine art competition at the annual Hibiscus Festival. The vividly colored painting was recreated in posters and postcards and sold to benefit local charities.
Nashville sculptor Herb Williams has spent the last 15 years playing with crayons, but not in the way you would imagine. His sculptural medium is the iconic Crayola Crayon, that paper-wrapped stick of pigment and wax that is the first artistic tool of every child.
But instead of putting crayon to paper, he uses actual Crayola Crayons — thousands of them — to make eye-popping, three-dimensional sculptures of everything from a life-size Marilyn Monroe to forest creatures and fish. His internationally renowned works will be on display at the A.E. Backus Museum and Gallery for its premiere exhibition, Wax Menagerie, beginning March 17.
Besides inventing Crayola Crayons for generations of school children throughout the world, businessman and philanthropist Edwin Binney also left a huge imprint on the Treasure Coast by opening the Fort Pierce Inlet and creating the Port of Fort Pierce.
Born in Westchester County, N.Y., in 1866, Binney began working as a young man for Peekskill Chemical Works, a company his father Joseph founded in upstate New York in 1864. The company produced charcoal and lampblack, ground and packaged coal that could be used as a coloring pigment in inks and paints. Joseph moved the company headquarters to New York City in 1880 and was joined by Edwin and nephew C. Harold Smith.
Years ago, when Vero Beach Museum of Art’s curator of collections and exhibitions, Jay Williams, held a similar position at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, he got wind of a nearby collection that piqued his space-generation curiosity.
Williams learned that a portion of the collection of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Art Program was housed at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The complete NASA collection of about 2,000 pieces is spread out, with installations at several other venues, including the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
It doesn’t want to be the hidden jewel of the Treasure Coast anymore.
When the doors open for the season on Nov. 12, the A.E. Backus Gallery and Museum will have a new look and an expanded exhibition space, part of its planned $1.1 million improvement. But that’s not all.
It also hopes to engage the entire community and be a more visible presence, to be a place not only to learn, but to spend time and return often.
For Taylor Loughlin, there’s no place like home. When the St. Lucie County artist returned to the area after earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Flagler College, Port St. Lucie is where she settled. She brought with her the school’s Art and Design Award for Painting.
Growing up in a family of creative people made the life of an artist the natural path for Loughlin to walk. Her father David has created pencil art as long as she can remember. His mother was an artist, working for a greeting card company. “She lived in New Jersey and … used to send me handmade greeting cards in the mail.” On her mother’s side, the women were great seamstresses and cooks and her brother, Jason, is a musician in Brooklyn.
If a museum is a reflection of its community, the Vero Beach Museum of Art is a prime example of how much the area’s population treasures and supports the arts. In the 30 years since its doors first opened on Jan. 31, 1986, the museum has grown dramatically and has become the major force in the region’s cultural vibrancy.
No musical group embodied the spirit of 1960s activism more than Peter, Paul and Mary. Together, they performed over a half-century, compiling a song book that includes Lemon Tree, 500 Miles, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, Blowin’ in the Wind, Puff the Magic Dragon, Leaving on a Jet Plane, I Dig Rock and Roll Music and Day Is Done. Though Mary Travers died in 2009, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey [known as Noel Paul] continue to perform, both as soloists and as a duo. Yarrow made a solo appearance at the Emerson Center in Vero Beach on Jan. 13.