Art shines bright this night

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Halo Arts Project celebrates the best of the best at Siesta Key Wine Bar

By Jane Bartnett

Siesta Key has always welcomed artists. It was only fitting that the Halo Arts Project, a Sarasota-based non-profit arts organization that supports a diverse range of local visual artists, chose the Key as the place to celebrate this year’s Halo Arts Fellowship Award winners in early March.

When speaking to the artists and friends of the Halo Arts Project gathered at the Siesta Key Wine Bar for the event, Jackie Cutrone, president and co-founder of Halo Arts Project, expressed her appreciation for the artists’ talents and the need to support the visual arts. 

“Our mission,” Cutrone stated, “is to support artists by providing them with financial support so that they can do what they do best. Create art.” 

Halo Arts Project honoree Diana de Avila (right) shows off some digital art with Jackie Cutrone, the organization’s founder. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

A visual artist herself, Cutrone understands the financial pressures that artists face.

“I know what it’s like to struggle with the cost of supplies and living expenses,” she said, recalling her days as a young artist. “The arts are vital. They make our lives better. We are here to give them a hand up, to ease the pressure so that they can pursue their talents.”

The 13 local artists chosen for this year’s fellowship awards represent Halo Arts awards criteria of supporting emerging artists, mid-range artists, and established artists who are working in the area. This year’s awards ranged from $1,500 to $2,500. Funds from the fellowships will allow the artists to take part in special projects, purchase art supplies and attend classes. The monies may also be used to cover studio rental costs and exhibition fees.

The Halo Arts Fellowship website states that “this gift is intended to be used toward enriching your creative process.”

“As our organization grows, we hope to reach many more artists in the Sarasota and Siesta Key community,” Cutrone said.

A long-time Sarasota resident with ties to New Jersey and the Northeast, Cutrone has blended her work as a visual artist with her fundraising talents and strong passion for improving the lives of those in need. In 2010, following Haiti’s devastating, 7.0 magnitude earthquake, she founded the Passion for Haiti Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. As a result of her efforts, a medical center and school were built in Atrelle, Haiti to support the 280 children of the Atrelle Orphanage.

When the hospital was completed in 2019, Cutrone turned her attention to launching the Halo Arts Project. She saw a growing need to support visual artists and to provide them with financial support so that they can continue to create their art. She believes that support for them is vitally important to the area.

“The arts in this community,” Cutrone said, “are essential not only for tourism, but also for the quality of life that we enjoy here. Art brings people together.”

Studies, she explained, show that in towns and cities where the arts thrive, the quality of life, health and education all improve.

“This year’s group of fellows showcases the diversity of talented artists working here in our community. Halo Arts celebrates different points of view,” Cutrone said.

Standing side-by-side with her fellow artists who had gathered on Siesta Key for the celebration, recipient Diana de Avila said, thoughtfully, “Passion and energy are our common thread.”

Added honoree Meg Pierce, speaking with the passion of an artist, “It’s hard to overstate how validating this award is.”


The 2022 Halo Arts Project honorees are:

  • Lucy Barber — A fine-art oil painter of landscapes, still life and figure work.
  • Diana de Avila — A digital fine artist who creates fractal and motion art and crypto NFT art. 
  • Mara Torres Gonzalez — Owner of the Mara Studio Gallery in the Rosemary District.
  • Grace Howl — An abstract artist working in acrylic paints, graphite, sand, texture media and collage.
  • Daniel Houston — A contemporary abstract artist who works in acrylic on canvas, paper or Masonite wood.
  • Traci Kegerreis — A photographer working in glass mosaics, up-cycled hand-painted furniture, collage, soft pastel and painting.
  • Cassia Kite — An interdisciplinary artist who created a multimedia project called Soundstiching.
  • Janet Mishner — A painter of large, contemporary abstract paintings.
  • Laine Nixon — An artist’s coach and contemporary oil painter. Nixon held a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.
  • Craig Palmer — An abstract artist who creates large paintings.
  • Meg Pierce — A mixed-media artist who works in fiber and painting.
  • Anita Wexler — A painter, sculptor and Sarasota High School art teacher.
  • Samantha Wuerfel — An abstract contemporary artist.


Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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