2017-02-16 / Arts & Entertainment News


It’s the year of the emerging artist for the festival

The lifeguard, surfer and West Palm Beach native who lives across the street from the beach describes his art as “pretty simple.”

He builds variously sized surfboards out of driftwood, carves them by hand and mounts them on framed backdrops he paints with tropical scenery — all from his Jupiter home.

“This is almost an extension of how I live my life,” said Rick Welch, a Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue captain. “When I’m doing a piece, I like for my stuff to look like it just floated in, that it came in on the last high tide. If I could make it smell like a sea breeze, I would.”

Mr. Welch’s “pretty simple” pieces attracted the attention of the ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival committee, which selected him to be one of 10 emerging artists at this year’s event. From Feb. 18 to 20, Rick Welch Surf Art will move out of the house and into a booth at Abacoa for tens of thousands of patrons to see.

Amber Moran, this year’s poster artist. 
COURTESY PHOTO Amber Moran, this year’s poster artist. COURTESY PHOTO “It’s a giant experiment,” he said. “This will be the first time where I have that many people exposed to what I do.”

Mr. Welch, through the encouragement of his family and friends and following a bout with blood cancer, decided to “give it a go” and try to get into the juried exhibition.

“Since all of that cancer garbage, I don’t want to say I’m better for it, but I pushed a little harder for it,” he said.

The lymphoma survivor has spent much of his time off creating inventory in anticipation of actual sales.

“I think, for the first time, I’m just really looking forward to sitting there quietly and listening — having people come in and comment on stuff,” Mr. Welch said. “If it sells, it’s great. If it doesn’t, it just goes back on the wall at the house.”

ABOVE: A boom box by David Yurko. LEFT: Surf-inspired art by Rick Welch. ABOVE: A boom box by David Yurko. LEFT: Surf-inspired art by Rick Welch. David Yurko, another emerging artist, designs wooden Bluetooth boom boxes using a computer-aided-drafting program and a computer-numeric-control tool. The married father of twin, 6-year-old boys developed the concept by accident.

“I built one for my wife for her birthday,” Mr. Yurko said. “I wanted to give her jewelry but decided to make that instead. It was a totally random thought.”

His “totally random thought” got him into ArtiGras, much the same way Mr. Welch’s “pretty simple” art did.

“I’m always tinkering and trying to build things — that’s just what I do,” Mr. Yurko said. “When I first thought of selling these, my mind immediately went to ArtiGras.”

COURTESY PHOTOS COURTESY PHOTOS He signed up for the training sessions offered by the festival that teach new talent how to display, market and sell their art at an outdoor show.

“ArtiGras itself helps you as an emerging artist,” Mr. Yurko said. “It’s a great platform and a great opportunity.”

He still has the juried-art jitters.

“I’m totally nervous, are you kidding me?” Mr. Yurko laughed. “You’re putting it all out there to scrutiny. Are people going to like it, and if they like it, are they going to buy it?”

Mr. Yurko, as well as Mr. Welch, along with the eight others making their art-show debuts, represent a group of emerging artists unlike any the festival has seen in its 32 years, according to ArtiGras spokeswoman

Rebecca Seelig.

“I just feel like this is the year of the emerging artist,” Ms. Seelig said.

WELCH WELCH “In the past, they were trying to see whether this was their path, when this year, they know it is their path. They have the expertise.”

Amber Moran, the 2017 poster artist and a former emerging artist, has risen from the ranks since that first show in 2011.

“That’s when I became a professional artist,” Ms. Moran said.

The upstate New Yorker-turned- South Florida resident dipped brushes into watercolors as a young girl to produce images of the dairy farm on which she grew up. She entered her animal, landscape and tree scenes in school competitions and hung them around the house.

“When I wasn’t helping out on the farm or playing with my cousins, I was painting,” Ms. Moran said.

She and her husband moved to the area in 2004 and started a family, and the painting all but stopped. Her two boys, now 8 and 10, took up most of her time.

Crowds fill Abacoa at a previous ArtiGras. Crowds fill Abacoa at a previous ArtiGras. “I attended ArtiGras every year and really loved to look at the artwork and wished I was doing something with mine,” Ms. Moran said.

The brushes and the watercolors resurfaced, this time to produce scenes from the sandbar in Jupiter — the inspiration for the poster.

“In the summer, we usually go every weekend,” Ms. Moran said of the shallow spot on the Intracoastal Waterway.

“Weekend Sandbar Fun” incorporates colorful fish, seahorses and shells scattered about the surface in her signature sprightly style. Her parents, who have kept their daughter’s childhood creations up on the walls, are coming down for the special occasion.

“I’m just so excited and honored,” Ms. Moran said. “I’ve worked really hard to try to get here in this type of position. It makes me want to keep going and evolving and doing my best. I don’t think that, 10 years ago, I would have seen myself here where I am now.” ¦

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