PEN Women of Sarasota Take Over Ringling Galleries

Todays News


School’s out but the galleries are open, and Ringling College of Art and Design kicks off the summer season with a dual-gallery exhibition from the Sarasota Chapter of the National League of American PEN Women. Showing in both the Willis Smith and Basch Galleries of the Ringling College Academic Center, the exhibit features 60 works from more than 20 women artists, ranging from painting to photography, watercolor to pastel, mixed-media and even literature. Running through June 22, much of the work on display is also for sale.

Founded in 1897, the National League of American PEN Women provided opportunity for women artists of all stripes (including journalists) at a time when many doors remained closed. Past members have included artist Georgia O’Keefe, stateswoman Eleanor Roosevelt and sculptor Vinnie Ream, who, in 1866 and at the age of 18, was commissioned by Congress to craft the statue of Abraham Lincoln that currently graces the US Capitol rotunda. As the national organization celebrates its 120th anniversary this year, the Sarasota chapter will celebrate its 60th.

Commemorating the occasion, the women of the Sarasota chapter have come out in force with an exhibition demonstrating both the range and artistry of the membership. On the walls of the Basch Gallery, Joan Peters’ fantastical purple-skied landscape, Andes, evokes a sense of adventure and Jana Millstone’s inspired and unconventional constructions bring a healthy dose of play and whimsy to a room full of artists exercising their own singular style. Next door, in the more expansive Willis Smith Gallery, Beverly Fleming’s dramatic Storm shines and Joy Pat Robertson’s boldly colored nature scenes command attention from both sides of the room, while Audre Marans' colorful abstractions poke fun at the population’s difficulty grasping traffic concepts with titles like Detour and Roundabout.

It’s another emergence of sorts for a group that, despite a membership of nearly 40 artists and regular monthly meetings, has remained relatively quiet in the cultural landscape. Exposure is a continual challenge, says Barbara Jendrysik, member artist and publicity manager for the local chapter, especially in an area as culturally inundated as Sarasota. “Being invited by Ringling College has been a real feather in our cap,” she says. “We’re thrilled.”

 For her part, Chapter President Brenda Spalding wants to parlay the campus exhibition into youth recruiting. “I’d like to see more young people and help them explore their creative side,” she says. “They’re taking music and art out of the schools, and organizations like this are necessary.”

Pictured: "Who's the Boss" by Joy Pat Robertson. Image courtesy of Ringling College.

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