Artistic energy from comradery at the Atlantic Center for the Arts

The Atlantic Center for the Arts complex from the top

The Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) is located in a dense scrub oak canopy habitat along Spruce Creek in New Smyrna Beach. This multidisciplinary artist residency facility was founded in 1977 by Doris Leeper, an internationally known sculpture and painter living in the area at the time. In a quick search of the web I found this facility ranked #3 on a list titled A Guide to 20 Top Artist Residencies and Retreats Across the United States published in 2012 by BLOUIN ARTINFO.

While much use of this facility focuses on their prestigious Master Artists in Residency Program where resident students are selected by the Master Artist through an open application process they also open the facility up to others when the use does not conflict with the residency programs.


This past December I was invited to visit with a group of artists working at the ACA participating in an annual artist retreat now in its 15th year organized by ACA residency alum Jean Banas who studied with Fumio Yoshimura (1926-2002) in 1985. Banas is an extraordinary abstract artist who is respected well beyond her home base of New Smyrna Beach.  Of the event Jean says, “A majority of the artists attended Steve Aimone‘s ACA workshops. These long time dear friends come together yearly as a close knit family, to be inspired and supportive of each other. I feel honored that these professional artists are so pleased to be a part of the group.”

Garde and Zalisko take a moment.

Garde and Zalisko share a moment

I joined the group for dinner one evening, which was followed by a tour of their studio areas. Since most artists come to this retreat for privacy I was honored by these moments with them. I settled in at a table with a few other visitors, Jean’s husband and art enthusiast Ray and artist Harold Garde, whose exceptional career is a must read. (web at

Suddenly a vibration of energy joined us in the dining area – enter the working artists – laughter ringing out and discussion buzzing. I enjoyed and readily accepted the contagion as each artist greeted me. It was as though I had too been painting with them for the past several days. Most artists I know are like this – energized by being with other artists, working on art and talking about art. It’s an inspiring lifestyle for both novice and professional artist.



In this year’s group I discovered a powerhouse of award winning professionals who are confident in the importance of their artistic journey. Each came to the retreat for their own reason, but inspiration was a common theme. One had recently returned from a 30 day residency, another from Spectrum at Miami Basel planning a work for a group show in New York City, one an arts professor on her individual art trek away from the classroom, one just having closed a solo exhibit at a major institution, with another hinting at an upcoming major public art opportunity – some starting new works, some experimenting, and others finishing up works started elsewhere. These are artists you want to watch going forward if you aren’t watching them now.

Check out the list of heavy hitters below. Enjoy a few quotes on this retreat from some of the artists. Be sure to use the links to their web sites when they are available. Enjoy!

Works by Banas

Works by Banas


Jean Banas
New Smryna Beach, Florida

Cheri Erdman
New Smryna Beach, Florida

Frances Gardner
Health Springs, South Carolina

Carson Kapp
New Smryna Beach, Florida


Gardner - tools await her return

Gardner’s tools await her return


Martha Lent
Maitland, Florida

Martha Mahoney
Winter Park, Florida

Karlene McConnell
Ormond Beach, Florida

Kathy O’Meara
New Smyrna Beach, Florida


Wild - 8 x 8 underway

Beau’s 8×8 underway


 Betty Parker
Daytona Beach, Florida

Audrey Phillips
Maitland, Florida

Antoinette M. Slick
Ormond Beach, Florida

Beau Wild
Port Orange, Florida

Pat Zalisko
Estero, Florida


“I successfully completed my 1st Kick Start Campaign to create an 8’x8’ painting on how fragile we are for the New York Expo. I have painted the initial painting over the past 2 days, but do see some to resolve in the size and theme.”

Beau Wild, Port Orange, FL

Mara Whitridge paint seems to float

Mara’s paint seems to float




“I am painting because I am painting, no goal just process.”

Mara Whitridge, DeLand, FL



Lent goes minimalist

Lent goes minimalist


“I have been away from painting most of this year. This was an excellent opportunity to just have fun. I did not have a specific agenda pre-planned out. I rather wanted to focus my time in painting a new series of 15 minimal abstract paintings with collage.”

Martha L. Lent, Maitland, FL



Slick prolific output

Slick’s prolific output


“I find the retreats at ACA very valuable, both for improvement of skills and for the comradery of working with fellow artists instead of alone in the studio.”

Antoinette M. Slick, Ormond Beach, FL


OMeara experimenting

O’Meara experimenting



“I’m here to have fun creating my art work at our annual art camp. Hanging with other creatives is so inspiring. We all thrive in this environment.”

Kathy O’Meara, New Smyrna Beach, FL



McConnell at station

McConnell contemplating



“I stay at ACA to explore and experiment. I feel more compelled to stray off my familiar path when I am surrounded by other artists in a beautiful new environment.”

Karlene McConnell, Ormond Beach, FL



“This annual retreat for me is a homecoming. I work with supportive friends who can and do offer constructive criticism. They have been my pals for years and know many of my life secrets. I couldn’t create in better company than this. Now, Christmas has begun for me.”

Pat Zalisko, Estero, FL

Mahoney chats about art

Mahoney chats about art


“I’m here to relieve myself of ….(kidding)…to be with fellow comrades of the Brush Brigade. I’m not leaving until the last brush is gone I swear!”

Martha Mahoney, Winter Park, FL


“The ambiance at the studios at the Atlantic Center for the Arts activates the artistic energy in me more than any other venue. Perhaps it is the fellowship of outstanding artists who work together here that generates the high level of inspiration.”

Betty Morris Parker, Daytona Beach, FL

UPDATE: Karlen McConnell, Audrey Phillips, and Pat Zalisko are currently exhibiting with Melisa Mason at the Ormond Memorial Museum, Ormond Beach, through February 28th.

The Grand Opening Reception for the Harold Garde: Last of the Game Changers exhibit at Henao Contemporary Center in Orlando is on Febraury 6, 2016 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. The exhibition includes works unseen before and runs through March 27th.

Exhibit Opening at the Dr. Gene Prough Center for the Arts

Breaking Free: Dark Energy Dark Matter

Paintings by Margaret Schnebly Hodge

Opening Reception Thursday, January 22, 6:00-7:30 P.M.

Dr. Gene Prough Center for the Arts at Chipola College

Dr. Gene Prough Center for the Arts3094 Indian Circle, Marianna, FL         January 22 through March 1.

Join visual artist Margaret Schnebly Hodge at the opening reception January 22, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Prough Center for the Arts, Chipola College, 3094 Indian Circle, Marianna, FL. The exhibit of oil paintings and other media runs through March 6, 2015.The visual art gallery is open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to noon. Admission to the gallery is free.

Throughout her career Hodge has enjoyed concurrent successes in both the commercial graphic and fine art fields. Long appreciated as an abstract figurative and landscape painter using a dark and rich palette and with a philosophical preoccupation with concepts of physical and emotional restraint, many works in this exhibit show Hodge’s aesthetic expansion beyond the sense of earth-bound considerations.

Breaking Free

Of her newest works, Gary R. Libby, Director Emeritus of the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, says, “The qualities of light in a dynamic cosmos, the existence of supernovas, the qualities of dark stars, dark matter, dark energy, baryonic clouds of matter and ideas about anti-matter all seem to find a place in Hodge’s richly painted visions of a beautiful and powerful apocalypse on the heels of contemporary science’s early penetration into the mysteries of creation and destruction in our universe. In many ways Hodge’s new work artistically begins to bridge important elements of this new science with the eternal beauty and mystery of the Heavens.” To read more of his essay click here.

Devoting most of her time to the creative process and working privately in her Ormond Beach studio, Hodge has recently exhibited this series of work selectively with exhibitions at Daytona State College, Daytona Beach; the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, Jacksonville; and now at the Gene Prough Center for the Arts. To view images of the Breaking Free Exhibit click here. An award winning artist, her work can be found in private, public, and institutional collections. She also produces a professional blog on art books and exhibits.

Make it to Miami – Tips for next year! LOL

  • PLAN to have fun, but remain flexible as sometimes the unexpected is even better than the planned.Miam Basel entry
  • TOLLS are mailed to you via “plate”, so don’t freak out at the camera flashes while driving.
  • GET A MAP of the event areas and study it so you don’t get frustrated.
  • CASH ON HAND is important for tipping and for parking. Parking can be $25 and up at events.
  • WEAR WALKING SHOES as you can miss some cool sites if you drive. Being comfortable means you get to do more before you get tired.
  • LADIES USE SMALL HANDBAGS so they don’t have to be searched.
  • CAMERAS were okay in all events I attended, but I just used my phone. Document but don’t spend your time looking at “real” art behind the lens of a camera.

Miami is inspiring! The architecture, foliage, and quick stepping residents make it a lively experience. I pulled in front of my small boutique hotel, La Flora, in the 1200 block of Collins Ave around 2 p.m. The drive took about 5 hours from my home in Ormond Beach. Driving up Collins I called the hotel as like many hotels they can only provide off-site parking. The attendant, Carlos, quickly came out to help me and called the valet service ($30 per day, cash only!).   La Flora is a thoughtfully upgraded original deco style hotel. Through I ended up in a suite with 2 queen beds and a view of Collins Avenue, a lounge area with kitchen, and a bathroom with over-sized tub. I soon found that all hotel staff were “gracious” and professional, a concept lost on many in the service industry today.

Enjoyed the deco suite!

Enjoyed the deco suite!

I felt a bit selfish going alone to the event and the “suite” enhanced my guilt for a moment. However I was on a mission to be immersed in art and let things simply unfold so was traveling light on multiple levels. My “must do” game plan for the limited time I had included the Rubell Family Foundation, Context and Art Miami, and Art Basel.

I quickly freshened up and headed out to Lincoln Road Mall, a nearby busy shopping/restaurant area created by closing off streets. It was pretty crowded and I got hailed at 3 different beauty salons as I walked by – really? I don’t think I looked that bad. I did run into the local Art Center South Florida – fabulous

Art Center 1

Art Center on Lincoln.

amazing studios where 44 local artists worked – I was ready to move down. Disappointingly I learned that after 30 years in the location the building had sold and they had to move elsewhere. Isn’t that the way? Artists help improve an area and once it takes off commercially artists can’t afford the rent and move – gypsies for art we are. I found several galleries here: David Castillo Gallery created a “pop up gallery” for the art fair week showing works by several contemporary artists; a Romero Britto shop where you could buy his art on almost anything; and a gallery of works by Peter Lik, the Australian Photographer whose sublime landscape imagery has sold for millions according to a website– what a life, but someone has to do it, right?

I got up early the next day and enjoyed a light breakfast provided free by the hotel.  I wanted to avoid traffic so by 9 a.m. I was headed west over the bridge towards the Art Miami and Context grounds to park. Parking was $20 and up (remember cash only!). The Rubell Foundation opened at 9 a.m. and was two blocks away so I walked there from my parking space in a lot just east of Context. Please accept my apologies in advance for not having the titles and artists names – I was looking and forgot to capture the data.

Rubell Family Foundation 1

A collection of aesthetic discovery.

Upon entering the Rubell Family Foundation at 95 NW 29th Street I followed the crowd to find 50 folks sitting at 50 cakes in the back outdoor art space. This charming performance breakfast by daughter Jennifer Rubell celebrates Don and Mera Rubell’s 50 years of marriage and collecting together – about 6,000 contemporary works of art. Unable to get close enough for a taste or pictures I moved quickly on to the galleries where there was an intriguing mix of 3-D, 2-D, and video. Each of the works was accompanied by a specific explanation by the artist about their piece and/or meeting the Rubells which I found meaningful. The collection features artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. They continue to expand the collection and maintain their original approach of championing emerging artists. You can visit this space mid-December thru the end of May limited days / hours of the week. This is a must see space each time I go to Miami as the exhibits change. Admission is free. I pre-ordered their new book on the collection coming out December 2014 – getting it before Christmas.
Context Art Miami 4
At 10:30, I took off to Art Miami (and Context) that opened at 11:00. A few years back I enjoyed the smaller gallery exhibits set up in the rooms of the Aqua hotel on Collins, but didn’t have enough time this year. The two fairs include a great deal of emerging artists and new technologies as well as well known names. Being from Ormond Beach it is a delight to discover “new materials and methods” for producing and exhibiting art; ideas typically found in larger cities where industrial and engineering factories are nearby. For me new materials does not equate to art I want to spend much time with or methods I want to include in my own process today – I just tuck it away for a day when it might be useful.
Context Art Miami 3

Context Art Miami 2

Washington Ave and 17th

Trees…Miami style!

At 2:00 p.m. I drove my car back to park at my hotel. Traffic was getting challenging so I decided to walk to Basel. I took a route down Washington Avenue which crossed Espanola Way where the aroma from an authentic Cuban restaurant confirmed for me where I would eat dinner later. Washington is a thriving business street that runs north to 17th Street. At 17th and Washington, under the metal encased “tree plants, I ran into a gentleman with a “which way now” look mirroring mine. We chummed up for the balance of the journey to the Convention Center and decided to follow the crowd flowing further west on 17th….then north again.

Miami Basel 1 - Calder

Super Calder – AWESOME.


Arriving at 3 p.m., the exact opening time of the first “regular folk” day for Art Basel, the line was not too long and there were 8 ticket windows moving people through. Shuffling into the main entryway I could see a good size crowd in front of me, but there was only a slight delay to get in. Entering in to the first wide open gallery space my eyes popped at the size of the Calder in the expansive entry area. I had never seen a Calder this large. What a welcome card!


Respite at Basel

Rolling hills for the weary.

Once fully imbedded in the pedestrian flow, I forgot to look at my map and kept ending up in the same place (easy to do) – My thought -DON’T PANIC! There were plenty of areas to sit to get your bearings – so I did. My goal was to see every gallery exhibit. Notice that I did not say every piece of art and even with all I saw I am sure I missed some fabulous works. Since the city wide art fairs are really groups of “gallery” festivals you might feel like you stepped into a circus with its sideshows. Each gallery has its own personality – from silver haired blue chip gentry reps to contemporary sophisticate reps who look like art themselves (where do they get these lookers?), with art from images hidden behind magic mirrors, accordion like 3-D paper acts, in your face erotica,

Miami Basel - White Cube Gallery - Damien Hirst

Yep…It’s Damien without diamonds.

Miami Basel 2

My apologies – no information- but WOW

Art at Miami Basel

Lush lush lush…sorry no information.

Art at Miami Basel

Catchy ain’t it? – sorry no information.

Sculpture at Miami Basel

The flowers kept me (and others) from swinging those legs. Sorry no information. Check out the sweet painting behind it.

large sculptures that have a playful feel of “souvenir chotchkie” or kaleidoscopes, to intermittent respites of truly mysterious thought provoking art if you can pull your eyes away from novelties – which of course I did. If you choose to go, you will celebrate the use of all your senses. You have total freedom of expression here so feel free to guffaw, be disturbed, be amazed, hate it, wonder WTF and fall in love all at the same time within every 100 feet of multi-gallery hallway – miles of it! Enjoy – I did!