FMBAA Honors Student Art Winners


Purple Bananas & Screaming Demons

“We’re not surrounded by our usual watercolors,” said Beverly Silvia, doing her best “we’re not in Kansas anymore” impression at The Student Scholarship Show at the Fort Myers Beach Art Association (FMBAA) on Sunday afternoon, March 26. As Chair of the annual exhibit that highlights the works from college-bound Cypress Lake Center for the Arts and Cypress Lake High School seniors, as well as those from Cypress Lake Middle School students, Beverly found herself not enveloped in gallery’s usual sunset and beachscape pieces, but by purple bananas, screaming demons, a young girl holding a pair of ears, tiny dinosaurs, and koi swimming on the moon, among other far-out images, from digital to photographs, oils to – yes, even traditional watercolor!

Before announcing the winners from the 150 dynamic pieces, Beverly introduced the 2017 Scholarship Judges, Renee Chastant and Marge Lee. Renee is a professional artist, while Marge worked at national museums as a public relations and marketing specialist in exhibit layout. “Renee is a very successful professional who knows how to articulate her thoughts on canvas,” said Beverly, “while Marge is an expert in presentation, to best tell your story. No matter how talented you are, people won’t look at your art for long unless you leave them something to the imagination, and that is especially true if you want a professional career.”

Marge stated that “Renee and I are really pleased to be here, as there is so much talent in this room. When I was a high school senior, I participated in similar competitions for scholarships and remember how important that was to me, so we took this very seriously. We feel each and every one of you shows a tremendous amount of talent and promise.” Following the awards, Renee and Marge walked the gallery, stopping at each student’s exhibit, and offering support and encouragement along with valuable artistic and presentation suggestions. “Don’t be nervous” said Renee, “as every artist must mature in their work.”


Smorgasbord of Art

Prior to the Cypress Lake Middle School awards, Joy Williams, the Visual Arts Instructor, thanked the FMBAA, describing their hosts as “an artist-lead group that is not a top-down but a bottom-up group, where everyone works for the betterment of the organization, then they contribute financially to our future! My young artists couldn’t believe it when I first told them they would have their own grand opening, with food and cheese and strawberries, with their work juried by professionals.” Joy said the only restriction she placed upon her charges was they must “focus on Florida, and as a result their works are a smorgasbord of art.”

Cypress Lake Middle School Merit Award Winner Isabella Digiorgio, by her 1st Place work.

The judges then announced Isabella Digiorgio as the 2017 Middle School Merit Award Winner, with Olivia Bevillard in 2nd Place and Jordyn Ward 3rd.

Other middle school artists were Angel Anderson, Sarah Bejarano, Eliana Caravella, Kira Coleman, Katelyn Collier, Carley David, Laura Enriquez, Tracy Hoang, Julia Howard, Karina Papanikoalaou, Reese Plappert, Ameilya Richardson, Hannah Ruby, Aidan Serrao, Sari Simon, Paris Thompson, Alana Transou, Elesia Transou, Holland Tyson and Jenna Ward.

Next came the 1st Place Art Excellence Award, presented to Cypress Lake senior Haley Keller, with Katja Rhodes placing 2nd and Madison Brewer in 3rd, with each receiving a college art tuition scholarship and cash prize.

Other contributing high school artists were Skylan Abraham, Rebecca Casimir, Maria Felix Gaspar, Dylan Goldberg, Camryn Marver, Maya Miller, Juanita Nino, Chloe Pallak, Aracelly Peralta, Crystal Estrada Perez, Chelsey Rios, Kelsey Santini, and Patricia Shamburger, with each receiving a Merit Award and $50 prize.

Haley Keller with her 1st Place Award by her winning presentation. Photos by Gary Mooney.

1st Place winner Haley was beaming, saying she was “very surprised and so happy. This is my first gallery show other than at school. I will use the scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast University where art will be my major. I want to keep continuing with my art and go into different mediums and develop a style that I can apply to advertising. I am so proud of our whole class, as we like and support each other, and it is really a good group.”


This is WOW!

When reviewing her exhibit, Renee said: “Haley, this is WOW! There are so many interesting things with this, I don’t even know where to start, there is so much good here! You made this into something special!” Marge called Haley’s layout “the best in the exhibit, with skillful use of simple frames to allow colors to pop. You have a nice balance and I like the diversity of your work; how you balance color and mood.”

“This experience is invaluable for the students, to have an outside agency recognize their talent and appreciate them,” said Patricia Bonwell, Visual Arts Instructor for the high school, along with Marguerite Petcher, Micki Smith, and Tim Smith. “Especially helpful is the advice, from content to technique to presentation, as those are all integral and essential for success. I am proud of the students and we thank the FMBAA for this amazing opportunity. The fact that the beach artists care enough about the next generation to hold this show definitely encourages the students to keep up with their art.”

In addition to providing individual suggestions, Renee and Marge gave brief remarks to the packed gallery on their individual expertise. “The Golden Rule is ‘Hear It, Hear It, Hear It,” emphasized Marge. “When you present to an audience, put everything on the wall, then critically take away your weak work until only your best remains. Keep art at eye level so patrons can see it easily. Make text easy to read and remember many art fans are older so larger font is fine, keep it under 150 words, and add a small photo of you or an art drawing to personalize it. Keep your presentation positive to show you feel good about your work, as this rubs off, showing you are passionate. Tell us the story behind your artwork, to help viewers understand your theme.”


Framing! Framing! Framing!

Lastly, Marge emphasized: “Framing! Framing! Framing! Make sure mat cuts are precise, as small things knock you out of many competitions. Framing can interfere with people’s enjoyment of your art; you don’t want their eyes on your frame but their focus on your work.”

Renee stressed the importance of what Marge brings, saying that “marketing is not the fun part of art for me, but some of today’s most successful artists come from marketing backgrounds; just hanging out and painting will not get you an audience. Study marketing formally or informally, so you can successfully get that job or show or sell your pieces or have someone hire you, so accentuate your passion, even if it means hiring a professional. Always include an attractive photograph, to make a positive connection with the buyer; that is crucial!”

She concluded by saying, “this show blew Marge and I away, so congratuations to all of you on your diverse work and creativity, and thank you, as this was really a blast to do!”

The Fort Myers Beach Art Association is open Monday through Saturday from mid-October to mid-April from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Summer hours begin April 15. After that date, the gallery is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to Noon. It is at 3030 Shell Mound Boulevard, at Donora Boulevard; for details call 239-463-3909 or see

Gary Mooney