Ceramic artist Brenda McMahon left New York for Gulfport in 2007. "It’s sort of magical that people find it when they don’t know they’re looking for it," says the artists and proprietor of the gallery that bears her name. "But somehow, Gulfport has this magnetic force. Especially for creators, makers and appreciators."
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
I'm chair of the arts committee at the Gulfport Merchant Chamber, the founder and an artist member of the ArtJones Open Studio Tour, a member of the St. Pete Arts Alliance and co-coordinator of the Gulfport Fine Art Festival.
What gets you out of bed every day?
Literally, what gets me out of bed every day is my 72-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback! But the other thing is ... love. Love just pummels me out of bed, and art, the business of art and teaching and workshops. And creativity. I absolutely love what I do, and I just wake up ready to go beause I'm excited about all of that.
Why St. Pete?
St. Pete is an amazing city. I sort of stumbled upon it - I wasn't looking for it - and I love it for a few reasons. It's such a great art town, and it's a studio art town, and I love that, being a studio artist. There's just so many studios around, and so many working artists around. The other thing I really love about St. Pete is, everybody's young. If they're 80 here they're young, if they're 60 here they're young. There's such a vitality. There's such an engagement. There's such a zest for life here that whenever I meet people I always think 'This is the youngest group of old-range people that I've ever met.' I love that kind of diversity in age and energy.
What is one habit that you keep?
I am so busy, all the time, so one of the things I need is quiet contemplation. So when I wake up, even though I'm excited about what's to come, I usually sit for a solid hour, and make a smoothie or a cup of coffee or whatever I'm in the mood for, and I literally have an hour of quiet contemplation ... I just root myself where I am before I start my day. And then after about an hour I get a nudge on the knee from a big, wet black nose, and then I go for about a 45-minute walk. And then everybody else gets put aside, and then I start my day.
who are some people that influence you?
In this area, there's so many amazing people that are doing really incredible work, and I'm really inspired and influenced by that. Being a ceramic artist and being so involved in the arts community, locally yhe folks at the Warehouse Arts District. I love what they're doing. And I've been following Duncan McClellan's compound there for years, from when it first opened to what it's grown into.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I do a lot of reading about presence, of being here now. That's one that my morning meditations arerooted in, language like that. We're all really so much connected than we are separate. And I love that whatever door opens in the moment is perfect; it's the door you're supposed to walk through. It's what you're supposed to be doing and who you're supported to meet. Be here now and be present for all the gifts that are placed before you. And they're not always easy.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I kind of wish I knew how busy I'd be. I'm not sure I would change anything. Maybe I'd store up more energy. But I'm involved in so many things; I almost wish the day was a 36-hour day rather than a 24-hour day.
I'm of course a ceramic artist, and I do these large tile pieces, and for my personal creative pursuits I'm really interested in moving to larger-scale public art. So I've had my eye open for that for a good seven or so, 10 years, and I'm kind of inching my way toward it, looking for that opportunity to open. And I've got this beautiful gallery in this beautiful art community in Gulfport that's exploding in creativity and we're coming together ... I'm really excited to see what unfolds there for me, and tap back into that "whatever door that opends is the one I'm going to wqalk through."