Incredible Journey: Interview with Emma Thurgood

I’ve been engaged in this ongoing dialogue about support for local contemporary art for quite some time now. Ever since I moved to Sarasota, FL I have experienced a vast amount of creative energy that feels underground, for the most part. Contemporary art collectives and gallery spaces crop up every now and then, which is great because creatives can see Sarasota’s vast potential — the only problem is that they don’t seem to stick for very long. So I wonder; how do we get to a point where new collectives and galleries can become established, and when these new collectives and galleries do become established they, in turn, become a catalyst for new spaces and groups until a domino effect is created? We have a good number of resources, but I think we still need to consider more support from current established institutions, so that artists (young and old) have more of an incentive to stay and help strengthen our art community. For example, when I was recently living in Utah, I loved going to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and CUAC because, not only could I view the work of artists living in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Berlin, etc., but I could also view contemporary art that was created by Utah artists! UMOCA even has a “locals only gallery” with a stipend included to help fund each exhibition within that space — AND the work that I saw continually blew my mind because I was viewing powerful, compelling artwork that was created outside of a major art center perspective — it was all new and fresh. I was viewing contemporary art about subjects that were specifically related to the location I was in and that added a whole other dimension to my experience as a viewer. It was also quite clear that these artists were very aware of the contemporary art world, were referencing aspects of it, but not necessarily mimicking it per se — they were adding their own perspective to what I consider an ongoing creative discussion, and it was coming from a Utah perspective. So that makes me think; how amazing would it be to go anywhere in the world and be able to view contemporary art that is representative of that location and its artists’ perspectives, while also being able to view artwork created by emerging and established, national and international, artists in the same space? To me, that would be highly fascinating! Fortunately for Sarasota, I’ve found that Art Center Sarasota is doing just that, and making quite an exciting impression in the process. I recently contacted Art Center Sarasota’s Exhibitions Coordinator, Emma Thurgood, to discuss the Art Center’s 2013-2014 season of exhibitions.

KLL: What is, and has been, your vision for Art Center Sarasota since you started your current position?

ET: My vision for the Art Center’s Exhibitions Program is to grow it to be a leader in Sarasota’s contemporary arts scene. For me, that means showing a variety of art year round that is visually interesting, thought provoking, and creates a memorable experience that they can’t get anywhere else in the area. I’ve been at the Art Center for a year and a half now, and I feel like we are on a great path with those ideas. For the last few exhibitions, visitors have been telling me, “This is the best show I’ve ever been to in Sarasota.” They said that about “Florida Flavor”, they said that about “African Nouveau” and “Leaf | Textile | Purpose” and I think the trend will continue on through the Incredible Journey Season.

KLL: Art Center Sarasota’s 2013-2014 season of exhibitions is titled Incredible Journey; why was that title selected and what should viewers expect to experience during the Incredible Journey season?

ET: Last season was called Southern Exposure for a reason: 20 of the 22 exhibitions we produced were exclusively Florida artists. It was a huge success in highlighting the amazing talents of Florida artists. Now, with Incredible Journey, we’re taking viewers on explorations of different art forms and concepts in art, as well as drawing artists from further afield than we normally do. In the past, it was very rare that our curated shows included artists that were outside of the Florida region. This season, we are presenting artists from across America and we have started the eight-year international exhibition program, “Confluence.” This program is an initiative I started where we will be showcasing artists from the countries in which Sarasota has a sister city. This year it’s Israel, 2015 is Russia.

I think this season is going to take some viewers’ way outside of their comfort zone. There are a lot of shows on the docket that present works that many people aren’t accustomed to seeing in Sarasota. For me, this is all part of creating a dialogue about what art is and can mean that will break down some barriers that have been put up.

KLL: We’ve talked a lot about fostering more support for local artists and creating an incentive for recent graduates to continue to live and work as artists in Sarasota; how is Art Center Sarasota contributing to this goal?

ET: Our main contribution towards encouraging students to stay in Sarasota is through Black Box Projects. It is specifically for students and recent graduates to produce an ambitious project. The Art Center provides an exhibition space and time, as well as some financial resources to see the vision of a student come to life. This contributes to their understanding of real world skills because they have to write a professional proposal to be considered and they have to produce the show.  Because we schedule so far out in advance, a candidate could be a student when they apply for the Project, but already graduated when the Project finally comes on display in the gallery. Secondly, we have juried shows year round, and students and young artists who have been submitting have been winning awards and selling their work regularly over the past six months. Sarasota in general is a great place for that kind of success, too. In my research of other centers like Art Center Sarasota across the country, very few regions are like ours in that they offer so many exhibition opportunities year round across multiple venues. The rate for being selected to hang in a juried exhibit is very high, as well. In other shows across the country, you are competing with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people and only a small handful will be selected. In the Art Center’s juried shows, we receive around 300 submissions from about 200 artists and hang approximately 140-160 pieces. In the current juried show, “miniatures,” we have 244 pieces on display from a submission pool of 345. Those are some great odds for artists.

KLL: In your opinion, why should there be support for local contemporary art in Sarasota?

ET: A city is only as old as its youngest member. If the art scene continues to alienate the younger artists and audiences as it has in years past, they’ll find somewhere else to go where they feel like they belong. It’s a difficult challenge to deal with, especially as a non-profit, because the young people are not always the financial supporters of an organization. But organizations need to cultivate the next round of supporters because, as with all things, times and people change.

Art Center Sarasota does a pretty good job walking this tightrope, I think. I try to make sure that there is something on display for everyone. I have at any given time over 300 artworks on display in the building and they’re all different.  No person should be leaving the center saying that there was not a single piece they liked. It’s impossible.

KLL: What advice would you give to recent graduates about establishing an art practice/career in Sarasota and/or its neighboring communities?

ET: Get involved! It’s hard for students, between classes and jobs, but seriously, there’s still enough down time in their life for them to carve out even twenty minutes a week to go and look at what’s on display in a gallery. The more involved they can become in the arts scene, the better off they’ll be. They’ll have a better idea of who the players are, they’ll be able to meet and speak with many of them at receptions, and it will give them a better idea of how they fit into the art landscape. One of the things I can’t stand is when a  young artist comes to me to ask me to put on a show of their work and they have no idea who I am or what I do or even anything about my organization. I teach a professional practices class at the center with Elizabeth Hillmann, our Education Coordinator, and one of the things we talk about is gallery etiquette. I live by a simple rule when it comes to that: date your gallery. Be informed about who they are and what they do before you approach them, be respectful of their time, and if they pick you for representation, treat them with the absolute utmost respect and maintain a good relationship.

KLL: What other services does the center provide that the community can get involved with?

ET: Art Center Sarasota has a wide variety of events and public programs throughout the year. I have a great lecture season coming up with Kevin Costello and Baila Miller starting on November 21. We also have a killer education program with tons of classes in painting, sculpture, collage, jewelry and other fun stuff. The full listing of classes and workshops can be found at I’m really looking forward to Paper Arts Week November 18 – 22. Then, in March we have tons of programming to accompany our “Confluence: Israel” exhibit and of course, iconcept on March 28, 2014 where art walks the runway!

KLL: I am thrilled by the variety of art mediums and artists that are, and will be, exhibiting this season. Can you touch upon the importance of a diverse exhibition space that incorporates the work of local, national, and international artists?

ET: The best thing about the space at the Art Center is that we have four different galleries. So I generally show four different shows at any one time. Our largest gallery is always a juried exhibit of predominantly local artists. Some of them come from further afield in Florida, and every now and then we get someone from out of state. The other three galleries are dedicated to curated shows of local artists, community groups and nationally recognized artists.

I think some artists would prefer if we only showed local artists all the time, but as a community center, we are not just here for the local artists, we’re here for the viewers too. That’s a difficult balance to manage sometimes. Showing the work of local artists is great, and I do it as often as I can, but showing that work doesn’t mean anything if no one is coming to look at it. What makes a viewer come to look at the local art that we are displaying as opposed to any of the other venues in town doing the same thing? That’s what our curated show of more recognized artists are for- they get the people in the door to come and see something they can’t anywhere else in town. I couldn’t tell you how many times someone has come in to see one of our shows in the front gallery and then bought something from a local artist out of the juried show. It’s also a benefit for the artists showing that they can say they’ve exhibited at a place that has also exhibited such notables as John Chamberlain, Syd Solomon and many others.  It offers up some shared prestige.

KLL: Can you tell us a little bit about CUBEMUSIC, Sun Boxes, and Pulp Culture?

ET: CUBEMUSIC and Sun Boxes, from Craig Colorusso, are the big blockbusters for the opening of our season. I feel like they really kick off the journey. Sound art is so underrepresented in Sarasota. The only other exhibit I’m aware of is the one at the Ringling in late 2011. But, for that you had to pay to go see it or wait for free Monday, and generally the people that need free Monday have to work on Mondays. What’s a viewer to do? Art Center Sarasota is always free and open to the public during our business hours, Mon-Sat 10a-4p. CUBEMUSIC will be transforming the space of Gallery 1 for the next eight weeks. Its cast light and shadows coupled with the soothing deep resonance of sound creates a truly altering experience of the space.

For viewers who still aren’t able to come and see the art, the art is coming to you! We are so excited to take Craig’s other installation Sun Boxes on the road around Sarasota. We’re stopping at parks and beaches to bring sound art to the masses. Whereas CUBEMUSIC is somewhat dark and ominous in its sound, Sun Boxes is positively ethereal. You can’t help but feel happy when you see them and hear them. The full schedule of the Sun Boxes tour for November and January can be found at

Pulp Culture is another show opening November 7 that I curated. I wanted to do a fun show about paper because I have such a love for it. I daresay it’s a dangerous addiction. I tried to not be too serious about it and just show fun creative art that would make people smile while educating them about the way that paper can be used for art other than drawing or painting. So far it seems I’ve accomplished my goal because of the feedback I’ve already gotten while I was installing the show.

art center sarasota image

You can view more information about Art Center Sarasota, Sun Boxes, CUBEMUSIC, Pulp Culture, and Emma Thurgood at:

Art Center Sarasota

Backstage Pass: Emma Thurgood curates excitement

Artist Interview: Craig Colorusso


SubRosa: The Language of Resistance

August 26 – December 7, 2013.
USF Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa Florida

SubRosa examines the language of art across continents and cultures in response to social, political, and environ­mental repression. Sometimes covertly and dangerously, the artists in SubRosa, (titled for the Lat­in phrase meaning secrecy), share a desire to question dominant political systems and the cultural status quo. The exhibition includes the work of artists Ai Weiwei (China), José Toirac and Meira Marrero (Cuba), Barbad Golshiri (Iran), Ramón Esono Ebalé (Equato­rial Guinea), Khaled Jarrar (Palestine), and Zanele Muholi (South Africa). These artists employ a range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, graphic novels, artist books, installation and video.

Zanele Muholi Katlego Mashiloane and Nasipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, from the series Being, 2007 Lambda print 30 x 30 inches Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York
Zanele Muholi, Katlego Mashiloane and Nasipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, from the series, Being, 2007, Lambda print, 30 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

August 30: Colloquium, 6pm, Barness Recital Hall, USF School of Music
August 30: Exhibition Reception: 7-9pm, USFCAM

ART THURSDAYS! Mix, Mingle, and Learn at these special events
September 19: Zine Fest, 6-9pm, USFCAM
October 24: Pecha Kucha, 6-8pm, USFCAM

CURATOR’S TOUR: Informal talk and tour with Noel Smith
October 3, 6pm, USFCAM
November 14, 12pm, USFCAM

November 13, 7pm, Tampa Theatre
Ticketed Event:
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY is the inside story of a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. First-time director Alison Klayman gained unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures. Approximately 90 minutes.

Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 1-4pm.
Closed Sunday and University holidays
Closed: September 2 Labor Day, November 11 Veterans Day, November 27-30
Thanksgiving Holidays

 Khaled Jarrar, Concrete, 2012 (stills), video 1 minute, 52 seconds, Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery Beirut, Damascus, Dubai, London, Jeddah

Khaled Jarrar, Concrete, 2012 (stills), video 1 minute, 52 seconds, Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery Beirut, Damascus, Dubai, London, Jeddah

Admission to the Museum is free; USF parking permit ($5.00) or pay-per-space parking required. Note: USF parking permit or pay-per-space parking is available in Lot. Please visit our website or call 813-974-4133 during business hours for directions, map, and events associated with the exhibitions. Groups and organizations interested in tours should contact CAM to schedule at least two weeks in advance.

SubRosa: The Language of Resistance is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and supported by the USF Institute on Black Life and EG Justice. The Institute for Research in Art is recognized by the State of Florida as a major cultural institution and receives funding through the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The USF Contemporary Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Ave. CAM101
Tampa, FL 33620

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Florida Watercolor Society’s 42nd Annual Exhibition

September 16 – October 25, 2013
Art Center Sarasota

The Florida Watercolor Society (FWS) is pleased to announce that it will hold its 42nd Annual Exhibition from September 16 – October 25, 2013 at Art Center Sarasota. The exhibit will showcase 100 of the best works by artists from Florida and around the country. The opening reception for the show will be held at Art Center Sarasota on Friday, September 20th, from 5:00 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Internationally renowned watercolorist Linda Baker AWS, NWS is the juror and judge for the exhibition. Baker selected the show from 596 entries submitted by 492 artists. Exhibition awards will be presented at a gala dinner on September 21 at the Hyatt.

Included in the exhibition will be major Florida artists Sue Allen, Frank Spino, Sue Archer, and Steve Rogers. Of the 100 paintings selected, 40 chosen were the work of West Central Florida artists. Those local artists include: Kris Parins, Helen Burkett, Elaine Charney and Diane Schmidt of Sarasota; Roger Parent of Osprey, Gary Morgan of Nokomis, Marilyn Priem and Deb Wicks of Venice; Roger Rockefeller of Longboat Key; Pauline Boston of Parrish; Anne Abgott and Susanna Spann of Cortez; Kathy Simon-McDonald and Linda Lucas of Bradenton

Anne Abgott “Sarasota Lawn Bowling”
Anne Abgott “Sarasota Lawn Bowling”

The exhibition is one of the highlights of the Society’s major yearly conference, which will be held from September 19 – 22 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. The FWS Annual Convention will include demonstrations by 20 different artists, featuring both new techniques and genres, critiques from award-winning artists and an extensive tradeshow with vendors from across the United States offering products at exclusive prices. With over 1,100 members, FWS is one of the largest state-based watercolor societies in the United States. Membership is open to all artists residing in the State of Florida. For more information about the exhibit or convention visit the FWS website,, for details. Registration for all events will be available on the FWS website.

Pauline Boston “Seatcovers”

Prior to the Convention, internationally known artists Linda Baker and Mike Bailey will hold workshops from September 16 through 19, also at the Hyatt Hotel. For general information, contact FWS President, Carol Frye at or Director of Operations Kathy Durdin at or 813-220-5800

This year, after FWS’ Annual Exhibition closes in Sarasota on October 25, about 30 entries will continue on to another exhibition across the state in Ocala at the Appleton Museum. FWS is excited to be able to accomplish a long awaited goal of extending the annual exhibition and being able to share the fabulous work of FWS artists with others in another part of the state. The exhibition will open at the Appleton on November 23, 2013 and close on January 19, 2013.

Roger Rockefeller “Crystal & Pears”

About Art Center Sarasota:
Art Center Sarasota was the first arts and cultural institution in Sarasota. Founded in 1926 as the “Sarasota Art Association” by Marcia Rader, Art Supervisor for the Sarasota County Schools. In the early years, the group met monthly and sponsored exhibits in rented facilities. The Association was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1943 and has been in its current location in the Sarasota Bayfront Cultural District since 1949. Art Center Sarasota today is a membership based organization but welcomes the entire community with affordable and accessible curated and juried exhibitions, art education for adults and youth, outreach for underserved youth and culturally related public programming.

Art Center Sarasota’s mission is to inspire individual creative expression, nurture artistic talent and provide the community with accessible and diverse visual art opportunities.


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Art Center Sarasota
707 N. Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone 941-365-2032
Fax 941-366-0585
Gallery Hours:
Free admission
10am – 4pm Monday-Saturday
Closed Sunday

Season of Sculpture: Under Azure Skies

Sarasota Season of Sculpture Announces 2011-2012 Exhibition: “Under Azure Skies”. This free exhibit of large-scale sculpture returns to Bayfront Park this November

(Sarasota, FL) Sarasota’s Bayfront Park will soon be home to 10 new works of large-scale sculpture when the Sarasota Season of Sculpture (SSoS) unveils its sixth season of sculptures on the bayfront in November. The exhibit, entitled “Under Azure Skies,” features works by 10 artists and was curated by the Tennessee-based sculptor, John Henry. The sculptures will be installed in late October; the official unveiling, open to the public, is set for November at Sarasota’s Bayfront Park. SSos offers free docent-guided tours during the exhibition, which runs through early May 2012. For more information, visit

John Henry, the exhibit’s curator, says that the artwork reflects a range of styles, but most share the use of natural materials, evocative and iconic subject matter and an organic emphasis. “This exhibition was curated with the idea in mind that there is a power and significance that is unique to the man-made object,” says Henry, adding that the exhibition was first shown at Art St. Urban l in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2007, where it has remained until this exhibition. After the Sarasota exhibition, the show travels to Florida International University in Miami.

“These sculptures come from artists of diverse backgrounds and origins. It is our hope that viewers will see this art as a common language understood all over the world,” says Susan McLeod, SSoS’s board president. “This museum without walls has raised the bar for regional public sculpture and added an important element to Sarasota’s rich cultural tapestry.” McLeod adds that the exhibition series has attracted more than one million visitors during its 12-year history and turned Sarasota’s downtown bayfront into “a major art destination.”

The exhibit’s 10 featured works are: “Big Red Tumkin” by Verina S. Baxter (steel); “Untitled” by Chakaia Booker (rubber tire and stainless steel); “Squirt” by John Clement (painted steel); “Untitled” by Isaac Duncan (stainless steel); “Complexus” by John Henry (steel); “Untitled” by Terry Karpowicz (granite, steel, and wood); “Mercury, Mars, and Venus” by Peter Lundberg (copper, steel, and colored concrete); “Portal” by Albert Paley (natural patina core and steel); “Oh’d” by Bret Price (galvanized steel) and “Crown” by Douglas Schatz. For detailed information about each artist and his or her work, visit

SSoS provides free docent tours for students, teachers and others, as well as educational opportunities uniting artists with donors and the interested public. Throughout the year, SSoS will host various events, including artist talks and symposia. For more information about SSos, please visit

About Sarasota Season of Sculpture
Sarasota Season of Sculpture (SSoS), founded in 1998 by Jill Kaplan and Bruce White, is a 501c3 arts organization, which presents world-class biennial sculpture exhibitions on Sarasota’s bayfront. SSoS focuses its exhibitions on the monumental work of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, and periodically includes the work of renowned local artists. This free biennial exhibition on Sarasota’s bayfront is unique among the many stars that make up Sarasota’s cultural crown. A drive down Sarasota’s Gulfstream Avenue during an exhibition season can be the first impression visitors and tourists receive about the dynamic cultural core of our community.