By KERRY KRISEMAN
Public Relations Manager
Words aren’t needed when beauty is conveyed through an artist’s brush strokes. Life’s truths are revealed in the colors they choose. What is unspoken, is told on the canvas. Bold colors summon our attention to look, study, discern.
Art transports us to familiar places and distant lands. We dare to dream and are called to study, taking in the landscapes, images and figures we see.
An artist is called to interpret what is crafted in the mind and heart. Inspiration pours onto paper, like ingredients carefully measured to make a scrumptious sauce.
Transition Artist Aaron F. heeded such a call when he submitted his piece, “Sunshine Skyway,” for consideration as the First Night St. Pete button. First Night is the largest family-friendly New Year’s Eve Celebration of the Arts in Florida. The event is a collaboration between local venues, artists and performers who showcase their music and art throughout downtown St. Petersburg. The First Night button is worn by patrons for admission to each venue.
On the button is usually a recognizable image that symbolizes the St. Petersburg community. A few moments spent browsing through images on his iPad sparked the idea to paint the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Painting is Aaron’s favorite medium, says his mom Christiane Vinet.
“Aaron feels happy when he is painting and will often smile and laugh through the whole process,” Vinet said.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge connects Pinellas County to Manatee County, spanning the waters of Hillsborough County. Most have traveled the bridge with trepidation as they climb the peak, while others are awed by the yellow spans that reflect the sun or colored twinkling lights that sparkle at night.
Aaron has demonstrated his natural talent and passion for the arts. Birds, especially pelicans, are a favorite subject. He also finds inspiration from iconic buildings and landscapes.
Aaron has attended Transition for two years and has thrived in the program. His face lights up as he shows a completed painting to a friend or loved one.
“I am not surprised that his painting of the Skyway was selected,” said Amanda Drewes, Lead Transition Instructor. “I love that our program allows our students to express themselves in unconventional ways, as well as provide an opportunity to learn job skills that will benefit them in future endeavors.”
The Transition Program, a partnership with Pinellas County Schools, provides vocational arts training for 18-22-year-olds with learning, developmental and/or emotional disabilities. The program focuses on easing the transition from the school environment to post-secondary education that includes the goals of independent living and employment readiness. Creative Clay Transition’s vocational training consists of lessons in art fundamentals, sales, marketing, customer relations, and the over-all business of being an artist.
Aaron also works in different mediums, and his work is often in demand in Creative Clay’s Good Folk Gallery and at Transition art markets. He also earns a paycheck for all works sold, which validates his authenticity as a working artist. There are other lessons, too. Transition students learn life skills they can use in the workforce. The class often collaborates, which contributes to a team feel, strengthening bonds that create success for everyone. Before Covid-19 necessitated the temporary closure of Creative Clay’s Good Folk Gallery to the public, Aaron was learning the Square point of sale system.
When viewed, art is transformative. In practice, it’s lifechanging. It inspires growth and can be a catalyst for bridge building. Not the kind we drive across, but the kind that creates a community of acceptance, where differences aren’t merely tolerated, but celebrated.
Drewes has witnessed the transformative power of art, not just in Aaron, but in all of her students.
“Creating art transforms students into confident, motivated, independent and successful adults who are ready to make their mark on the world,” she said. “I am honored to be a stop along the way to so many bright and promising futures.”
Bridges connect communities. Art does the same. In viewing and appreciating art, we are connected to others. We find common ground. We travel to places previously unknown. We learn about others, and ourselves. For that, no words are needed.