Making SPAACES for New Artists in Sarasota

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Eight emerging artists make their Sarasota debut this Friday with the opening of Truly Valued “Who Am I” at SPAACES gallery, located at 2087 Princeton Street. A collaborative project orchestrated by SPAACES founder Marianne Chapel and the nonprofit Truly Valued, the exhibition sees eight ambitious young women ages 13 to 16 making their first foray into the fine art world and expressing their identities through painting and sculpture. It also represents the culmination of two months of hard work and artistic exploration with Chapel as their guide.

“I really wanted to open the world of art to them,” says Chapel, “to show them that this can be an outlet.” And so for the past several weeks, the young artists have been visiting the studio to learn about art and art history, as well as have run of the roost in eight “personal studios” demarcated by Chapel. The day might begin with snippets from the PBS series Art21, such as a presentation on Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which inevitably leads to discussions of what is and is not art, but it all leads up to that period of creative play, where the artists let their instincts run wild with canvas and materials supplied by Chapel.

And so as the young artists would enter their studio spaces, “make a mess,” Chapel would say—and they did. “Anything goes,” she’d say—and they’d paint the furniture. With canvases and paints and found objects of all sorts available to them (including a whole mess of what appear to be wooden buttresses donated by neighboring artist Zach Gilliland), Chapel expected to see figurative art and simple scenes; what she got was levels of abstraction and unexpected artistic ingenuity, including one young woman repurposing bubble wrap as a textured stamp—something they never covered in discussion. “She just thought of a new way to make art,” says Chapel. “That’s really smart.”

As with previous SPAACES projects, like last November’s La Salon Tout Inclus, the democratization of art looms large behind the project. And as the eight artists explore the particulars of their individual identities through Who Am I, she hopes the more general message becomes engrained—that contemporary art and expression do not require years of training to enjoy and do not require degrees to be legitimate. In short, young artists need not wait for permission. “Art is available,” says Chapel.

Now, one final hurdle remains for the young artists—the opening. Taking place this Friday, January 11, at 6pm at SPAACES, all of the artists are expected to attend. “They have to stand up and say, ‘I did this,’” laughs Chapel.

Pictured: The artists of "Who Am I" with Marianne Chapel (second from left). Photo courtesy of M. Chapel Projects.

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