In nature, as in life, it’s always breathtaking when fledglings take flight. The Goodland Arts Alliance, our area’s fledgling cultural non-profit, has just taken its first flight ‘over the bridge’ (that’s island-speak, by the way). For the month of May artist members of the GAA are exhibiting at the Norris Center in Naples. The exhibit features four of the twelve founding members: photographers Celeste Navara and Jim Freeman, seashell mastermind Judy Wittwer, and myself, the oil painter.
It’s not always easy for Island artists to get their work displayed on the other side of our bridge. Thankfully this exhibit is made possible through the coordination and sponsorship of the United Arts Council of Collier County. Along with the Norris Center, the UAC utilizes several public venues for solo or group exhibitions: the Marco Island Airport, North Collier Regional Park, Rookery Bay Estuarine Research Center, and their own ArtsMart gallery on Pine Ridge Road, to name only a few.
Of the four exhibitors, only Celeste Navara could be considered an emerging artist. Although much of her life has been devoted to her craft, this is only her second public exhibition.
Says Navara, “In joining my local art group, the Goodland Arts Alliance, I have been given the opportunity to observe working artists a bit more closely. This has encouraged me to develop my own passion for photography beyond the lens. The work of a professional artist goes far beyond their actual art. That in itself, is an art form.”
As a resident of the Village of Goodland, Navara found a perfect alliance with the GAA for moving her artful life forward. She adds, “I’m more aware of the work that goes into becoming a successful independent artist: shows, advertising, presentation, networking. The behind the scenes, if you will, of a working artist is something I am able to view better inside an art group.”
In addition, the UAC is the perfect alliance for the GAA. As well as supporting the independent artist, the UAC has also established the Arts Forum for all area cultural non-profits – providing networking and brainstorming events, exhibition venues, and a wealth of information regarding legal issues, grant-writing, and organizational formatting.
While this is the GAA’s first flight over the bridge, it’s public debut was the hugely successful Harbor Arts & Music Festival held last April at MarGood Harbor Park in Goodland. Freeman, Wittwer, and I were among the exhibitors, but I applauded Navara’s decision to volunteer at the event instead of exhibiting. Not because her work wasn’t well qualified, but the insights she could gain working on the inside would be invaluable.
A dozen years ago I took the same approach when I joined the Naples ArtCrafters (who host a monthly outdoor arts festival in Cambier Park, Naples, throughout high season.) I had previously shown my work in galleries and museums, but never at a quality juried outdoor festival – which is an excellent avenue for artists with a desire for self-representation. My best decision was volunteering at the event before jumping in with costly canopy and display equipment. The volunteer is rewarded with copious tips, inside information, a whole notebook of what not to do, and a built-in network of their soon-to-be peers.
So, I think you’re getting my drift here, I cannot stress enough the advantages in joining an arts organization – even if you are an arts organization. From the smallest to the grandest, these organizations all have something mighty to offer. I’m thrilled and fortunate to witness the GAA, with UAC nurturing, take wing, and like all fledglings, with a wobble here and there, but soon to soar.
And what pleasure we’ll all have to be able to view our world through the lens of Celeste Navara, with a little help from the GAA. Write her name down, you won’t want to forget it.
The Norris Center is located in Naples at the corner of 8th Ave. S. & 8th St. S. The exhibit runs through the end of May.