The elegant reds, blues and yellows of dozens of glass vessels, platters and other, less-easily-described objects d’art glow as if they’re coming from within. This muted backlighting is the best way to display glass art, so that each piece’s subtleties of color, texture and design radiate outward.
Perry and Lisa Everett’s spacious, spotless home in St. Pete’s Old Northeast is full of art – from stunning glassworks to wood and stone sculptures to canvases of oil, pastel and acrylic – and every work is carefully placed or hung and appropriately lit. The track lighting, which Perry Everett installed himself, gives every painting – the huge and the tiny – its own moment at center stage, and the opportunity for appreciation from different perspectives.
The Everetts’ home is not a gallery. They’re not trying to complete a collection, they’re not trying to impress anybody. The thing is, they have a story for every piece in their home. They bought these creations – and nearly every piece is the work of a local, Tampa Bay artist – simply because they liked it.
Because of their long-term commitment to, and support of, local artists, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance is honoring Perry and Lisa Everett with the 2019 MUSE Award given to Patrons of the Arts. They’ll be guests at the MUSE ceremony this Friday (Feb. 8) at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Despite their knowledge of art, and deep appreciation for works in all media, the Everetts don’t consider themselves collectors. At first, they were bemused by MUSE.
“Personally, it feels sort of strange to get recognition for something that just makes your life better,” Lisa says.
Adds Perry: “We’re getting an award for getting stuff, basically. We feel like we haven’t done anything special. But we feel like we always win – the artists here are just phenomenal, as artists and as people. Our closest friends are all artists now.”
She’s a retired pharmacist; he is a pediatrician. Their three sons are all grown and out of the house.
Alongside more than 30 original pieces by renowned glass artist Duncan McClellan – a longtime favorite, and now a good pal – the Everetts proudly display works by Charlie Parker, David McKirdy, Lance Rogers, Charles Parkhill, Tony Eitharong, Mariel Bass, Herb Davis, Felipe Packard and Richardo de la Vega, Gale Fulton-Ross, Denis Gaston, Doreen Horn, Loyd Jones, Jack King, Valerie Scott Knaust, Susan Livingston, Candice McLean, Dan Meisner, Jim Michaels, Lenn Neff, Leslie Neumann, Beth Reynolds and John Stanley.
They love their “Young Tongues” sculpture by Tampa artist Hoang Van-Bui, who fled his native South Vietnam at the age of 7, and the oddly-shaped but spellbinding work of Gulfport’s Nancy Cervenka, who crafts one-of-a-kind sculpture out of tightly-wound spools of 16mm and 35mm movie film.
The Everetts have been “getting stuff” for 25 years, through four home renovations (intended, naturally, to enhance and improve their appreciation of their art). After all this time they do, of course, recognize that they’re making a difference in their community. “When you buy art from an artist, or from an organization, you’re having a very positive impact on their lives,” Lisa says.
The Everetts met in their native Mississippi. “I grew up so far out in the country that my idea of art was whatever was printed on the fans from the funeral home, because the church I grew up in didn’t have air conditioning,” Perry jokes.
They moved to St. Petersburg in 1985 so that he could become the director of All Children’s Hospital’s new pediatric ICU.
When their eldest son, Matt, began attending American Stage’s theater camp, the couple got interested in the local arts community, and the “Much Ado About Art” auctions, which helped support the theater’s Shakespeare in the Park series.
It was the early-to-mid ‘90s; they began to haunt the Professional Association of Visual Artists’ “Cool Art” show. Along with Topsail, Gasparilla and the other outdoor shows. “We look for originality,” Perry explains. “We look for execution. We look for the craftsmanship, and the presentation of the piece. The durability of the piece. We’re suckers for earth tones, too.”
Over time, they discovered, they preferred the abstract over the purely representational.
“Sometimes you’ll see something and you’ll just love it, but you couldn’t say why,” Lisa says. “It just speaks to you.”
Local artists being the friendly sort, they welcomed the Everetts into their studios, and into their lives.
“They were friends the first day I met them,” says McClellan. “I met the whole family at one time and instantly fell in love with them.
“Perry and Lisa couldn’t be more caring – not only of their friends, but the community. They take an interest in a particular artist, it’s amazing. They’re very supportive in general to art, but in particular they want to support living, working artists.”
The Everetts sit on the board of McClellan’s School Project, which introduces young people to the art and artistry of glass sculpture. “I couldn’t do it without them. They listen, they advise and they help to solve issues. They’re an amazing couple, and this is a well-deserved award.”
A few years into their budding careers as art connoisseurs, Lisa and Perry brought another couple – he a dentist, she an orthopedic surgeon – to an outdoor show.
Remembers Perry: “The husband edged over to me and he said ‘How do you do this? How do you do this art stuff?’
“I said ‘Well, you find something that you like, and you write a check for it.’
“He said ‘What if it’s not any good?’
“I said ‘Do you like it?’ and he said ‘Yes.’
“I said ‘Then it’s good.’”
“It’s very difficult for some people, we’ve found,” Lisa explains, “especially those in the medical community. People with science backgrounds want validation. We want proof that this is the right thing to do.’”
By trusting their own reactions to art, the Everetts got all the validation they needed. “The only unifying rationale for all of this is that it gives us pleasure,” says Perry. “We see beautiful or thought-provoking things which evoke an emotional response in us, we meet interesting people whose passion is based in giving away a part of themselves, we can foster those people in our community by buying the things they produce and promoting them by displaying their work in our home … and sometimes we just look around and enjoy the experiences all over again.”
Read St. Pete Catalyst profiles of the other MUSE recipients for 2019: