By D.K. Christi
Browsing the COCO Art Gallery is a feast for the senses — 7,000 square feet of eye-catching exhibits from local artists, all in one place.
Located near the main entrance to Coconut Point Mall, the gallery is a non-profit cooperative owned by the Art Council of Southwest Florida (ACSWFL), featuring the works of artists from about 25 affiliated art organizations. The month of April is the Estero Art League’s time to shine with a featured exhibition within the COCO Art Gallery.
“Other artists will remain on display, but we’ll have a section just for our members,” said Estero Art League President David Morrison. “Each month, the COCO Art Gallery also has receptions for the public to mingle with artists and art patrons.”
Any time visitors stop in at the gallery, a few artists may be seen actively working. All types of artistic mediums are showcased and sold at COCO — oil, pastel, acrylic and watercolor paintings, photography, ceramics, Nantucket baskets, shaker boxes, glass, textiles, jewelry, wood, greeting cards, fiber art, sculptures and more.
ACSWFL also owns the newly opened COCO Art Gallery at Coastland Mall in Naples, doubling the opportunity for affiliated artists.
“Artists rotate in the gallery as purchases are made,” explained COCO Art Gallery Director Judy Fuchs. “In addition to taking home a unique, local art piece — ‘Where the locals shop’ according to the COCO Art Gallery motto — customers support the artists and their non-profit co–op that features artists from beginners to well-known professionals.”
Fuchs herself is a local artist whose early career was spent photographing the works of other artists for Norcross Greeting Card Company. Today it’s her creative nature photography that she exhibits at COCO.
Estero’s art scene is growing — and the Estero Art League is fast outgrowing its current gathering space at the Estero Recreation Center. During the winter months, the league has about 100 members and rising, said Morrison.
“More people are moving to Estero, and that includes more beginning and polished artists needing space and time,” added Estero Art League Vice President Cherie Mulcahy.
She is a recent Estero resident originally from Ohio, where she was active in art organizations and shared her art generously with the Christ Child Society. “A vacation for my brain” is how she describes her watercolor sketch book. Mulcahy often stops her car to sketch the wonders of nature, “especially in Florida – pines, palms, vegetation, sky and birds.” She loves the wonderful art classes available in Southwest Florida and has recently moved from watercolors to acrylics.
Morrison is also a crossover artist. Before moving to Florida, he was a wood carver, but the thought of moving everything required for wood carving to Florida was the right moment to switch to watercolors. He now paints everything from seascapes to portraits.
Busy as a volunteer manager of four websites, Morrison also has his own website where he provides watercolors for wellness – small paintings intended as an enduring “get well” gift for hospital patients, each custom designed with the recipient’s interests in mind.
Estero artist Judy Ladd’s early educational interests were in science and medicine — she loved the idea of solving medical mysteries. Her penchant for putting pieces together is now channeled into handcrafted beads and jewelry.
“Every bead is a puzzle piece of creation and full of excitement – to me, it’s fun,” said Ladd, who creates the beads beginning with porcelain clay.
Each of her jewelry pieces is original and unique with varying shapes, designs and glazing techniques. Ladd will be honored as the COCO Art Gallery’s featured artist on Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17.
Barbara L. Sykes, a recent member of the Estero Art League and veteran of art exhibits internationally, finds the COCO Art Gallery to be more than a place to display her paintings.
“The people are nice — I like to be part of a community. I like the energy,” she said.
Sykes’ award-winning career as a digital and media artist includes a professional understanding of exhibitions. She describes her watercolors as lyrical, colorful abstractions reminiscent of organic shapes, ethereal forms and underwater landscapes.
“My paintings are created through a meditative, intuitive practice; the unconscious becomes conscious as colors flow across the paper and forms emerge in silence,” she explained. “A sense of stillness and movement are captured as images surface, blend into each other and become defined…My recent series of watercolor paintings evokes the spontaneity, themes and underlying presence of the Divine Feminine — reoccurring threads that continue from my previous body of video and new media art.”