Cocoa Beach Studios Celebrate Brevard Artists and Community

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A garage is, for the most part, a purgatory for unwanted items, a pen between a once useful life and a future of limited value. A Cocoa Beach garage, however, proved to be a source of creativity and the start of a beachside art movement.

One day in 2016, mixed media artist Tony Sasso was hanging out with his friend Peter Hain at Sasso’s Cocoa Beach garage. The two, perhaps energized by a beer or two, decided it was high time beach communities had their own art gallery.

The idea quickly caught on. Soon the two friends had created a non-profit gallery space and rented and pooled their time, talent and treasures to outfit the interior into a veritable art gallery. Once Sasso and Hain built this creative field of dreams, artists came to populate it. In November of the same year, Cocoa Beach Studios was a reality.

“The community response has been amazing,” Sasso said. “So many people stopped by just to say how happy they were to have a gallery in Cocoa Beach.”

Fast forward to August 2022, when the Studios will reopen, or rather, reopen in a new location just steps from their original location.

“We moved three doors east, but moving six years of facilities was a challenge and we are thrilled to show off our new gallery space,” noted artist member Ann Welly Revels.

Cocoa Beach Studios will be hosting a grand reopening celebration from 6-9 p.m. Friday, August 5 at the new gallery, 159 Minutemen Causeway, Cocoa Beach.

The free reception includes refreshments, instrumental music from Dave “Honey” Miller and a friend, and the chance to meet some of the 30 studio staff and see the August “Summer Works” exhibit.

At Studios of Cocoa Beach, artists do more than just create art.

“It’s not just a gallery, it’s a community of artists,” added Sasso, now executive director of the Studios.

“Without paid staff, it’s the artists who make the place grow.”

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The breadth of techniques and styles found in the Studios’ stable of artists reflects the gallery’s mission to engage “diversity in the arts and to inspire, educate and enrich the community”. The gallery showcases local artists and its roster of instructors offers classes for everyone from beginners to experienced artists.

“The gallery is unique,” ​​said nationally acclaimed artist Phyllis Shipley, who has owned several galleries herself and whose work has been exhibited from New York to Cairo and Dubai.

“It encompasses a diverse range of creative expressions from local and international artists in a welcoming and cheerful setting.”

At the service of artists — and the community

Instructor Jaymee Weinreich notes that Brevard is certainly not inundated with art galleries, and few galleries offer a solid program of art classes. At Studios of Cocoa Beach, classes include oil and acrylic painting, watercolor, stained glass, pottery, as well as monthly painting nights for families and inexperienced artists.

“As a trainer, I find there is a lot of interest in learning to create,” she said.

"midnight blender," by artist Phyllis Shipley, will be presented at Cocoa Beach Studios.

The artists are a group of workers who take turns with the shifts that keep the gallery open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. You’ll find Clyde Mann making the Saturday morning shift. For Mann, being part of the gallery is more than an exhibition for his work.

“I learned so much from other artists,” she said.

Marsha Houck had volunteered at the Studios, until the other artists encouraged her to join. With their mentorship, teaching and support, Houck quickly won awards.

“I was welcomed into a community of artists who encourage and support each other,” she said.

Houck noted that in addition to serving artists, the studios are serious about giving back to the community.

Artists work with Keep Brevard Beautiful and the City of Cocoa Beach on beautification projects. To show support for budding young artists, Houck coordinates an exhibition for the winner of the Central Brevard Art Associations Annual Scholarship. This year’s winner, Carley Fernandez, will exhibit her work in August.

“I found a place where I belong”

Artist Debora Tweedie presents her Fantasea fish, on display at Cocoa Beach Studios.

Deborah Tweedie specializes in “FantaSea” fish made from palm fiber. The studios provided Tweedie with an outlet and Tweedie’s clients with a passion.

“I’m very lucky to have followers who buy my fish and turn their walls into aquariums,” she said.

John Cielukowski, one of the Studios original member artists, is looking for new members.

“I love being part of a very talented and hardworking group that is focused on creating great art, supporting each other, being an integral part of our small community, and dedicated to the profitability and success of our organization” , did he declare.

Artist John Cielukowski, one of the Cocoa Beach Studios exhibitors, works in his studio.

Tiffany Allen, equally at home with abstracts as she is with incredibly detailed graphite drawings, believes that being part of this creative community combats the isolation inherent in the profession.

“Being an artist can be a lonely endeavor,” said Allen, who credits studio members with taking her art to the next level.

“While it’s absolutely exciting to sell a work of art knowing it will be appreciated in someone’s home, the inspiration I receive as a Studios artist is invaluable,” she added. .

"gold coasts," an oil painting by artist Dealia Swenson, will be exhibited at Cocoa Beach Studios.

For Delia Swenson, an accomplished oil painter and instructor, the Cocoa Beach Studios are a treasure.

“I found a place where I belong, a place where I feel like home, a place I can share,” she said.

“In today’s world, it’s hard to find.”

Cocoa Beach Studios are located at 159 Minuteman Causeway, Cocoa Beach; 321-613-3480; studiosofcocoabeach.org.

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