Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

UPARC artists work joyfully at new Safety Harbor studio

SAFETY HARBOR — In downtown Safety Harbor, there is a turquoise house with a white fence, a series of colorful patio chairs under umbrellas and a vertical sculpture of a dolphin in bright neon colors.

The cheerful building at 176 Fifth Ave. N is the newly renovated Harborside Studios — a one-of-a-kind place designed for teaching and displaying the artwork of developmentally disabled local residents.

The studio is a project of UPARC, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make life better for its clients. With funds mostly from state grants and private donations, the organization provides group homes, apartments and opportunities to enjoy a fuller life, including the bright new art studio.

One recent morning two groups of students, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, reflected that mission's success: They were painting, working in clay and eagerly engaged in their projects and with each other. A sense of joy emanated from the two art rooms where work was in progress.

Valerie West faced her students in the smaller of the two rooms, where eight men and women were painting abstract designs with tempera.

"We do everything," she said, pointing to a display wall, "from painting on plexiglass to papier mache to puppetry."

Tonya Elliot, 49, takes classes there five days a week, as does her sister, who also is developmentally challenged. Elliot said she loves coming to the studio.

"I love blending colors and painting with Valerie," she said of her teacher. "She got me inspired."

UPARC had operated a studio in rented space in the building since 2004. But in 2012, the nonprofit purchased the building, gutted it and then began an extensive renovation.

Sheldon Hershman, executive director of UPARC, stopped by the studio one recent morning. He spoke of the newly renovated space with pride.

"We were fortunate to secure grants from the Pinellas County community planning department along with private donations," Hershman said.

Most of those donations come from the UPARC Foundation. The fundraising arm of UPARC, the foundation has been raising money for the past 30 years. The art studio is the latest project to benefit from its efforts.

"We now have about 43 people enrolled," Hershman said of the art classes, "but on average 25-30 of them attend on a daily basis."

The studio, which provides art lessons up to six days a week, has three teachers who move briskly among the students, shifting gears week by week on the form of art they teach.

Studio director Michelle Ault said she needs a fourth teacher to work part time. Ault, who has worked in various divisions of UPARC for the last 18 years, now hires art teachers for the studio, plans lessons along with them and helps select art projects she thinks will sell. She seeks other venues to display the students' work and plans their exhibits.

At the front of the new studio is a large gallery with the fruits of the students' labor displayed on four walls. The quality of the work gives no apparent clue to the developmental challenges of the artists.

Paintings of flowers, comic figures and common household objects are done in modern, often abstract, designs in eye-catching colors. Strands of ceramic beads are draped over small stands on the gallery tables. Nearby are ceramic platters, plates and bowls and other personal ornaments such as rings.

Prices are affixed to all art pieces.

"We try to determine the price by how much time the student invested in the work and the appearance of the finished project," Ault said.

The artists receive 60 percent of the proceeds of their sales; the rest goes to purchasing new supplies.

Ault also has promoted the artwork beyond the walls of the gallery.

"We participate in all activities here in Safety Harbor," she said, including Kiwanis events, the popular wine festival and Third Friday, a monthly city festival featuring music, vendors, food and art.

Ault said she has found her work with Harborside Studios particularly gratifying.

"The biggest reward is walking in the door in the morning and knowing the difference art makes in their lives," she said of the students. "Over time, their attitudes and personalities have become more positive and relationships have blossomed."

Hershman said he has gained insights into the nature of both art and artist.

"This art challenges people's preconceived notions about people with disabilities," he said. "It reminds me that you can't limit people."

Correspondent Elaine Markowitz can be reached at [email protected]

     
Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: John Clayton breaks down the NFL draft

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: John Clayton breaks down the NFL draft

It's NFL draft day. John Clayton joins Rick Stroud to talk about how many quarterbacks will go early and who the Bucs will take with the seventh overall pick, considering their obvious needs on defense.Plus, the Lightning will face the Boston Br...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Forecast: Abundant sunshine, low humidity make for ideal weekend in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Abundant sunshine, low humidity make for ideal weekend in Tampa Bay

Folks around Tampa Bay won’t have many excuses to stay indoors this weekend.It’s going to be a bright weekend with sparse cloud cover, resonably comfortable temperatures and plenty of sunshine, according to the National Weather Service.Temperatures o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Suspect identified in string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City

Suspect identified in string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City

PLANT CITY — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has identified the suspect in a string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City.Deputies are searching for Majar L. Jones, 43, of Orlando.Jones may still be in a stolen 2002 green Ford F-150 with...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: Lightning’s next opponent and playoffs’ economic impact; Rick Scott earns political victory; what goes on in that pink house?; it’s draft day for Bucs

The Daystarter: Lightning’s next opponent and playoffs’ economic impact; Rick Scott earns political victory; what goes on in that pink house?; it’s draft day for Bucs

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Another sunny day today with high temperatures in the low 80s, according to 10Weather WTSP. Friday brings the possibility of rain, and the weekend brings the heat: Sunday’s high is in...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Aside from former Florida State safety Derwin James, the most likely first-round pick from a state college is ex-Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan.He hopes, at least."That would (stink) if I didn't," Bryan said last month at Florida's pro da...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning wait for its next playoff opponent to come to town, the city’s business community — large and small — say they’ve already won this NHL postseason.At WestShore Plaza this week, with blue and white banners surrounding...
Updated: 3 hours ago
SOCom leader wanted to toss Google exec from car. Because he was right.

SOCom leader wanted to toss Google exec from car. Because he was right.

TAMPA — Standing in front of an audience of several thousand scientists, data wonks, geospatial intelligence analysts and other big thinkers, Army Gen. Tony Thomas drew some laughs when he talked about the time he felt the urge to toss Google CEO Eri...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The last cigar factory in Tampa keeps rolling

The last cigar factory in Tampa keeps rolling

YBOR CITY -- History lives here, inside the J.C. Newman Cigar Co.Machines manufactured in the 1930s are still used to pack and roll the cigars, and the sights and smells are throwbacks. Tobacco bits litter the weathered wooden floor, and a pungent od...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?

Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?

Let’s discuss biosolids waste. I promise, it won’t be gross or boring.No, this is more of a how-did-we-lose-money-again bedtime story.Our tale begins around 2006 when St. Pete officials began exploring a biosolids project. The city was eventually goi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

TAMPA —These smart phones and computers and internet are big annoyances to Sister Madonna Buder.Every time she turns around, there's a message or a request or a question coming into one of her devices from somewhere in the world."What's all the...
Updated: 3 hours ago