Public art show ‘Turtles’ adds more color to 9th annual artsHOP on Anna Maria Island
ANNA MARIA ISLAND — You have seen them in stores along Historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach — 3-foot in diameter wooden boards shaped like turtles propped here and there.
The colorful creations, 49 in total, make up a public art show commissioned by the Bridge Street Merchants Association, a nonprofit comprised of business operators on and near Bridge Street in the city.
The unique artwork is also part of the ninth annual artsHOP organized by Cultural Connections, a nonprofit established in 2008 to promote, support and act as advocate for art and culture on the island and provide guidance and counsel to cultural-related businesses and organizations. ArtsHOP, which runs Friday through Saturday across Anna Maria Island’s three cities, features ArtWalks, which are different island locations offering refreshments, art demonstrations, live music, and a chance to meet the artists.
Amanda Escobio, secretary of the Bridge Street Merchants Association and an island business owner, played an integral role in putting the art show together. She described it as a collaboration between the association and Cultural Connections.
« I’ve met some amazing artists of all ages and skill sets to do the pieces. … Some of them have sold their work for a lot of money and some of them have only had work that’s hung on the refrigerator with a magnet, » the 45-year-old Escobio said. « It’s just remarkable how many people got involved and, because of our love of turtles and due to their nesting and the influence of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, so many kids got involved because there was an education program earlier this year and they learned from (Executive Director) Suzi Fox on the importance of protecting the turtles. »
The business owner said turtles are becoming engrained in the island’s identity.
The pieces of art are available by auction will be displayed along Bridge Street through Sunday. According to Escobio, the proceeds of each piece sold will be shared between the original artist and then go back into the Bridge Street Merchants Association, which she said supports local charities.
« We have bids currently on 19, so a little less than half and so we would love to see some more bidding activity, » Escobio said. « We’ve had three bidders exercise the ‘Buy it now’ option. »
Elaine Boucher, a massage therapist and artist who lives in West Bradenton, painted one of the turtles. Titled « Wisdom of the Sea Turtle, » Boucher mounted the wooden turtle onto a board filled with sayings like « Be a good navigator, » « Be well traveled, » and « Age gracefully. »
« It was a lot of fun, » the 47-year-old said. « I love nature and I love doing art. »
Susan Diffatte, a marketing consultant for Cultural Connections, said the organization has a « Help A Turtle » campaign coinciding with artsHOP. The campaign involves donation jars placed at locations across the island featuring the graphic usage of « Herman The Turtle, » a pastel by local artist Pauline Peiler. According to a release, money from the jars will be donated to Mote Marine’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program to purchase stakes to protect nests from human impact, and allow Mote volunteers and staff to monitor nests to give researchers a better understanding of the species and of each individual nest.
The overall artsHOP event gets « bigger and better » every year, said Cultural Connections facilitator Joan Voyles.
« Just come and explore, » the 76-year-old said. « I think there are so many interesting places and shops that feature unique artistry. »
For more information on the public art project, go to visitbridgestreet.com.
For more information on artsHOP, go to islandartshop.com.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.