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Nature Coast Art League Resumes In-Person and Online Artist Opportunities

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The Nature Coast Art League has been serving the Hernando community for 75 years, giving local artists the opportunity to create, express themselves, and exhibit their work. 

“Our mission is to promote the visual arts in Hernando County and to encourage and support local artists,” reads a league mission statement. “We do this by encouraging and supporting artists through educational programs for the continued development of their talents and skills.” 

This mission was disrupted two months ago, when–in the wake of a global pandemic–the league ceased all activities. But where there’s a will to make art, there’s certainly a way; and now, the league is back.

With an eye toward both safety and creativity, the Nature Coast Art League has started an online group that will allow them to share and gain positive, constructive feedback for their art. They are making art together in person, with stringent safety precautions in place. In addition, group president Carole Babicz is helping needy families in this area.

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“I wanted a way for our members to show the art they’ve done while staying at home,” said Babicz, who specializes in mosaic art.

To this end, the Nature Coast Art League has formed a private Facebook group, Members Group for Sharing.

This is a safe online hub where members post photos and videos of their projects, inviting those in the group to–as per group guidelines–“provide genuine, helpful feedback and suggestions to others when commenting or when asked for an opinion.”

“Be an active participant!” encourage group guidelines. “Share your work, create dialogue, add videos, share links of interest, and above all, HAVE FUN and LEARN from each other.”

This private group is intended for “Nature Coast Art League” (NCAL) members, previous NCAL members who have relocated, artists who have or will provide demos and workshops for NCAL, artists who live too far away to join NCAL, artists who are considering a NCAL membership, or any artist or art organization that supports the Nature Coast Art League.

During these uncertain times, Babicz herself attests that she has found great comfort in the creative arts.

“I find art to be relaxing,” she said. “It takes my mind off of things.”

Some of her group members feel the same way, lining the message board of the Members Group for Sharing with photos of their oil paintings, decorative tables and buttons, and miniature canvas artworks. 

League member Sylvia Liszka Durell, an artist, author and blogger who specializes in decorative button art, has found her days of quarantine to be a time of rich and inspired artistic creativity.

“I’d like to share my Covid 19 projects,” said Durell, whose work can be found at www.holeybuttons.com/blog. “I call it my “Corvid 19 Table” (Corvid being the family of birds crows are in). Glued buttons, decoupaged wrapping paper and paint on a rescued side table. My second one is not quite finished but it is an acrylic painting of chickens flying around a farm out building.’’ 

And, as Durell also has discovered, the emotion of gratitude is also a powerful source of inspiration.

“I also created a button bouquet as a thank you to an elderly friend,” she said. “She has sent us food during this epidemic.”

The Facebook group also includes a posted notice of an upcoming art show, a creative how to video about acrylic painting, and plenty of messages of thanks for the opportunity to create.

And beginning Monday, May 25, 9 a.m., League members are once again creating face to face. 

After a two-month break, the Nature Coast Art League is resuming its organizational Create Alongs; weekly sessions in which member artists paint, socialize, and learn from each other. These Create Alongs take place at the Weeki Wachee Senior Center, 3357 Susan Drive, Spring Hill, and are being conducted in a modified form; with artists  staying 6 feet apart and sanitizing tables and hands, as well as bringing their own coffees and snacks.

“We’re coming back again,” said Babicz, noting that a handful of members have thus far returned to participate in Create Alongs. “We’re starting all over again, and in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

Babicz said that members are respecting these guidelines, keeping their distance from one another and using sanitizer to meet what Babicz considers a worthwhile challenge.

The creation of art is not the only worthwhile challenge facing Babicz, who always has considered charity and philanthropy to form a key component of the league’s overall mission.

“Giving back has always been a part of it,” said Babicz.

Last Christmas, they supplied gifts for 126 local children in need; kids identified through the Hernando County School System.

Now, Babicz is spearheading an effort to provide even more to these kids.

“I’m taking them food,” she said. “The kids are home from school, and I knew that extra food would be helpful–with my donations freeing up money for parents to spend on other things.” 

Babicz has been personally packaging food donations and delivering them safely to the front doors of her grateful beneficiaries; and now she seeks the help of the community in the creation of a philanthropic masterpiece.

“I would love to hear from anyone in the community who would like to donate basic foods, like peanut butter and tuna fish, protein products that are good for the kids,” she said. “What kid doesn’t love peanut butter and jelly?”

Although cash contributions also are accepted, Babicz would prefer direct canned and nonperishable food donations; to coordinate a donation, or to inquire about membership in the Nature Coast Art League (which carries dues of  $30 per year or $35 per year for couples), contact Carole Babicz at 352 596 1015, or visit https://www.facebook.com/NatureCoastArtLeague/.   

The spirit and mission of the Nature Coast Art League is captured in a photo recently posted to its new Facebook group; one that boasts a painted illustration of various art tools, along with a quote from artist Lisa Damico that reads, “A painting is not done to match your sofa. It is done to match your soul.”

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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