A wealth of local talent on display at Art by the Sea

VERO BEACH — Art lovers flocked to the Vero Beach Museum of Art in droves Friday night for the opening night reception of Art by the Sea, one of the Vero Beach Art Club’s premier annual exhibitions. 

Friends, artists and collectors came to view the exhibit and to get a first chance at purchasing works from the outstanding selection by talented local artists.  

Held in the Museum’s Holmes Great Hall, the presentation had approximately 240 pieces on display, each completed by members of the Vero Beach Art Club and the Vero Beach Museum of Art.  This is the 23rd year for the show, which runs through Sunday.  With our community’s prodigious interest in art, organizers were expecting more than 3,000 people to view the exhibit throughout the weekend.

Judy Burgarella, who is also a member of the Artists Guild Gallery, co-chaired the event this year with Barbara Landry, and was one of the first to purchase an exceptional oil painting.

“I went crazy over this piece,” she said of Alice Ferguson’s Crescendo, which won first place in oil.  “I’m just in love with it.  I can’t wait to get it into the house.  I know fine art when I see it, and it doesn’t get any finer than that.”

There is a different judge each year, and they have the very difficult job of determining winners in each of seven categories:  oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastels/graphic, mixed media, sculpture/jewelry and photography/digital. There are also two special awards given – the John Mazur Memorial Award for Best in Show and the Ocean Grill Award.

This year’s judge was Kevin Haran, who teaches art at the University of Central Florida.  Haran holds a BFA in Studio Art, a BA in Art History and an MFA in Painting/Drawing and is a former art curator for the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Cynthia Grabenbauer, from the Vero Beach Book Center, happily introduced her mother Alicia Callander, pointing out her graceful ceramic sculpture, Up From the Depths.

“It’s from my Creation Series,” said Callander.  “It represents water, the beginnings of the shore and the start of plant life.”

Talented potter Maria Sparsis was smiling as she studied Gustaf Miller’s Yellow Legs sculpture, a creative wooden piece that had been awarded the John Mazur Memorial Award for Best in Show.

“I’ve been trying to describe to my friends what it is that I like about it,” said Sparsis.  “It’s whimsical, it’s fetching; it’s obviously a human form, but with the long yellow legs of a bird.  That’s what I find so amusing about it.”

One of the features that make this show so successful is the diversity of styles and categories. And, because each artist enters just one piece, they are sure to put their best work forward.

“Everyone likes something different; I guess that’s what makes it work,” added Sparsis. 

One potential buyer said he learned a valuable lesson after an oil painting by Bill McCoy that he had contemplated buying was quickly snatched up by someone else.

“When you see something you really like, don’t wait,” said Nicholas Adams. “She came here to buy and I came here to buy, but I waited too long.”

“The mobile sculpture is my favorite,” said Patricia Hope Miles of George Beckman’s exquisite kinetic piece Suspended Dancers, the second place winner in the sculpture/jewelry division.  “It’s so elegant but fun.”

“There is some really fine work in the show,” said her husband Barry Shapiro, owner of Lighthouse Art & Framing. “Some artists I’m unfamiliar with; I’m seeing them for the first time and I’m very impressed.”

Shapiro added that he had recently gone to Art Basel in Miami and was pleased to see an increase in sales once again.

“I see pieces being sold here too and I think that’s a good sign,” said Shapiro.  “Art is so important; it transcends politics and social issues, and can break through barriers.  When people are seeing and buying art it means they’re opening up.  It’s a real positive sign.”

The Vero Beach Art Club has a long history in the community, having originally been formed 1936 as the Vero Beach Sketch Club and eventually incorporating in 1954 under its present name.  Funds raised at the event benefit the Vero Beach Art Club Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships towards degrees in fine arts to local high school students.

Art by the Sea continues on Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. {igallery 326}


John Mazur Memorial Award for Best in Show:  Gustaf Miller, “Yellow Legs” Sculpture

Ocean Grill Award: Walford Campbell, “African Plait” Sculpture


1st:      Noel Rothmayer Award:  Alice Ferguson

2nd:     Ellen Fischer “Portrait of a Man”

3rd:      Paul Davis “Seaweed Harvest II”

Merit Award:  Betsy Moser “Savannah Pines”


1st:      Ned Noland “St John’s River”

2nd:     Maureen Fitzpatrick “Big Cypress Swamp”

3rd:      Charles Gruppe “Boats”

Merit Award:  Peni Baker “Sebastian Inlet Pier”


1st:      Joel Johnson “The Basketweaver”

2nd:     Joan Turner “Morning Light”

3rd:      Del Peterson “Picked Just for You”

Merit Award: Marilyn Kolas “King Neptune”


1st:      Agnes Manganelli “Just Add Water”

2nd:     Ann Stewart “Autumn in Dorset”

3rd:      Donna Spada Coughlin “Kennebunc Docks”

Merit Award:  Sherry Haaland “Orchids Sweeping Shadows”


1st:      Marcia Robertson “The Hunter”

2nd:     Vanya Neer “Bits of Italy”

3rd:      Carol Staub “Environmental Series No. 8”

Merit Award:  Susan Rienzo – “Unfinished Business II”


1st:      Nancy Blair “Guardian II”

2nd:     George Beckman “Suspended Dancers”

3rd:      Jens Bisgaard “Pendant w/Swiss Blue Topaz”

Merit Award: Walter Piersol “Thor and Hymir Invent Catch & Release”


1st:      Nick Binghieri “Balanced Rock”

2nd:     J Scott Kelly “Old Boathouse”

3rd:      Brett Donnelly “Morning Calm”

Merit Award: Jeanne Peterson “Raindrops on a Streetcar Window in Vienna, Austria”

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