TAG Studio Brings Art to Avon Park
Wandering through the corridors of the Hotel Jacaranda, visitors might stumble upon a few pleasant surprises in the historical building. One surprise they’ll be happy to find is an art gallery created by The Artist Group (TAG) at SFSC.
The TAG studio was created in 2008 when a group of local artist friends from the Highlands Art League – Nancy Adams, Betty Heim, Kathy Morgan, Betty McCarthy, and Louise Weis – needed a studio space to create, exhibit, and sell their art. After having worked at the Hotel Jacaranda for many years, McCarthy knew about some free space inside the hotel. “The space wasn’t able to be rented to an outside business because it didn’t have a front door and people would have had to walk in through the hotel,” McCarthy said. After some fundraising and assistance from Dr. Catherine Cornelius, former SFSC president, and Don Appelquist, director, SFSC Foundation, Inc., the group was able to secure the space.
At first, the artists used the studio solely to work on and display their art. “People would come in to view the gallery, and then they would ask about classes,” Adams said. “We realized the Avon Park community needed a place they could come to take non-degree seeking art classes, so we began working with SFSC to develop Community Education classes.”
The studio now offers classes in acrylic painting, watercolor painting, clay, jewelry, and oil painting, and all five artists teach their specialty. “We have students from age 12 to 97,” Adams said. “We are planning our first student exhibition this spring. It will be the first time our students will be able to show their work.”
The artists at the TAG Studio come from a wide range of backgrounds. Adams worked as a small animal and wildlife rescue veterinarian for 25 years. Her love of animals shows in her watercolor and oil paintings, which often feature cows and birds as well as landscapes and still life’s. Two of her paintings, “Barnyard Brawlers” and “Not in my Neighborhood,” have been featured on the covers of two issues of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and her painting “The Eavesdropper” was one of 100 paintings to be exhibited in the Florida Watercolor Society’s exhibition at the Mennello Museum in Orlando. Adams teaches oil painting at the studio.
Heim is a certified teacher of fine arts and taught first grade through high school art classes in New Jersey before retiring. She has won awards throughout Florida and her work has been exhibited in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan. She paints watercolors, and recently began painting on Yupo, a specialty paper commonly used in Japan. She teaches watercolor painting at the studio.
Jewelry instructor Morgan retired from real estate in Michigan. She is an international artist whose work has been exhibited in galleries and private collections throughout the United States and Canada. She also creates jewelry out of silverware sets for family heir looms. Along with jewelry, Morgan paints in acrylics and hand paints glass.
McCarthy started out in the arts working as a professional photographer in Orlando for 36 years. Because she is colorblind, she prefers to paint in contrasts and lighter shades, which make her paintings stand out from most. She paints in watercolors, oil, and acrylic, but at the TAG studio, McCarthy teaches her specialty, which is clay.
Weis taught art at the University of Alaska and also served as president of the Ketchikan Art Guild before retiring in Florida. She has been exhibited in galleries in Alaska, has had her own one-person show at the Highlands Art League, and currently owns her own shop in Wauchula. Weis paints in acrylic, oil, watercolors, and pastels and also paints china. She teaches the TAG Studio’s acrylic painting classes.
Recently, the TAG Studio gallery was redesigned into a full wall gallery with the artists’ work now covering the walls from the floor to the ceiling, drawing in even more visitors. “The studio has not only benefitted us and our students, it’s also provided cultural opportunities for Avon Park, which in the past have been very few,” McCarthy said. “With the combination of the gallery and the Hotel Jacaranda being a vintage, historic hotel, people are coming in all the way from West Palm Beach just to see it, and a few other businesses along Main Street are considering adding their own galleries now. If the culture continues to grow, it could bring a lot to the city.”
The TAG Studio will hold its annual Holiday Reception and Open House, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2-4 p.m. The public is invited to attend. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information about the TAG Studio and its classes, call the studio at 863-784-7346.