Main Street Vero Beach announces winner of Bernie O’Brien painting

VERO BEACH — Main Street Vero Beach is proud to announce the winner of a Bernie O’Brien painting given away in a drawing to Cliff Ruff.

Ruff said he has admired O’Brien’s work even as a poster for more than 20 years. It was very special that someone who knew the work and already loved it won the painting.

Bernice “Bernie” O’Brien’s artwork captivates in each strong, thick stroke she placed upon her canvas. Her paintings of iconic downtown Vero Beach seem to confer to the on-looker a cheerful fixed forever; an on-going story of a bright tomorrow. Her artwork frames a small town’s refurbishment come alive.

Her husband Dennis O’Brien, a local attorney, served on the executive board of original Downtown Vero Beach, a small group of concerned and capable residents who wanted more for their town’s surroundings. While Dennis managed goings–on of this new downtown endeavor, Bernie set up a table to sell her artwork at Downtown Friday events, thus garnering a following of enthused citizens.

The mid-1990’s was a time for this slumbering downtown to re-ignite itself.

“It was all very grass-roots. We wanted to block off the road and sell beer, have a party,” said Joe McMenamin, one of the very first volunteers. “No one ever asked before, so no one thought the city would say ‘yes,’ but they did. That’s how it all started.”

Jim Chrulski was Downtown Vero Beach’s first manager. He describes Bernice O’Brien’s artwork as being, “painted in the ‘Fauve’ style, or les Fauves—French for ‘the wild beasts’.”

It seems that Bernie O’Brien’s brushstrokes captured the challenge of transforming a down-turned town into a fresh, enlivening locale. Bernie’s paintings tinged the burgeoning wild beasts of forlorn buildings into vibrant facades.

“She’d sit a chair down and just start painting,” said friend Linda Hillman. “Bernie loved, loved, loved creating artwork. And she is just so generous a person.” Creating several of the Main Street posters, Bernie O’Brien was an artist with a heart and shared her talent and verve with a very worthwhile cause.

Main Street Vero Beach (MSVB) is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Florida Main Street program, part of the State Division of Historical Resources and is a member of The National Main Street Center a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Across the nation, Main Street’s 4-point approach of Organization, Promotion, Design, and Economic Restructuring has transformed the way communities revitalize, promote and manage their historic downtown’s’ and neighborhood commercial districts. Main Streets everywhere thrive again living on as places of shared memory where people still come together to live, work, and play.

Find out about Main Street Vero Beach by stopping by the office at 2036 14th Ave. We are currently looking for volunteers to help with Downtown Friday and much more. Volunteers who have three or more hours a month to give, contact MSVB at (772) 643-6782,, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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