PHL Blog

January and February 2021 Artist Spotlight

Cathy Koutsoumbaris

The Palm Harbor Library is proud to display local artists’ work. January and February’s featured artist in the John Brock Art Alcove is Catherine Koutsoumbaris one of our own staff members.  Cathy, Administrative Services Director, has been enriching our workplace since 2012. Cathy brings a touch of creative whimsy with her wonderful miniature art.

Cathy began her miniature journey at the age of 18 when she built her first dollhouse. Throughout the years she attended several workshops that taught the art of miniatures and she has created hundreds of impressive works.

Cathy is president of the Lakeland Miniature Guild where she teaches classes and hosts the annual Miniatures Show in June.

In this month’s display, Cathy shares her Alice in Wonderland miniatures, made out of wood, foam core, and various scrapbooking paper. She also utilizes polymer clay to make smaller details, such as miniature food.

Aside from miniatures, Cathy enjoys spending time at the beach and cuddling her St. Bernard, Samson, who is probably the muse of most of her work!

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November and December 2020 Artist Spotlight

Robert Herbenick

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If you’ve visited our library recently, you might have noticed our new art exhibit in our John Brock’s Art Alcove center. We are currently spotlighting artist Robert (Bob) Herbenich and his beautiful paintings inspired by our local natural beauty. We asked Bob to share some of his journey and inspiration with us.

Can you share a little bit about your early art interest? Did it start as a child and in what form? 

As with most children without a television, a lot of time was spent drawing.  At age 8, an easel with a few tubes of paint was my birthday present and drawing continued throughout my school years.  Engineering school, military, family, and breadwinning were greater priorities than art. It was not until many years later, what little spare time I had, was spent carving decorative decoys and songbirds. Studying bird anatomy, feather patterns, behavior, attitude, etc. produced a more accurate representation of the bird. Since retirement, time has been available to study art and return to the easel. 

Your art depicts many local nature elements. Can you tell us why you choose to represent these and what meaning it has to you? 

I grew up in south Florida and spent a great deal of time outside with my brother fishing, camping, and exploring. The elements of Florida are diverse and appealing to me. My artwork represents various subjects within a day’s drive from my home in Safety Harbor, Florida. Inspiration for paintings come from the subjects found at local parks, marinas, beaches, farms, and varied landscape settings. Most challenging is presenting a subject in a way that tells a story or expresses a feeling and I am most successful when this is understood by viewers. I am extremely fortunate to live in an area with such an abundance of subjects to draw and paint. Birds, like earlier years, especially those who frequent water are my current interest. I look forward to many years of what I enjoy most, creating art.

Do you have a sacred space you like to create art in? Any specific habits or rituals when it comes to setting up your tools, sketches, etc.?

A studio was included in the design of my home and I spend 6 days, sometimes 7, bouncing back and forth between 5 or more paintings in different stages of completion. My paintings are incomplete until my wife’s very critical and accurate eye gives her approval. I rise early, read art books, then begin painting by 6 am. Oil and acrylic are my medium of choice with pencil and watercolor used for preliminary sketches.

My painting buddies and I prefer painting outdoors in the fall and spring when the temperature is comfortable. I enjoy painting outdoors and the studies created directly from nature are used as reference for larger paintings.

Have you attended art classes or workshops before? If so, what is your most memorable experience with one?

I did not attend art classes. Reading, viewing paintings to determine the artist’s techniques, and YouTube University videos make up my art education.

To learn more about Bob’s work visit https://www.robertherbenick.com

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September’s Keep Kids Creative Week

The third week in September has been Keep Kids Creative Week since 2003 when artist Bruce Van Patter created it.  The hope was (and still is) to encourage kids (and families) to keep their creativity flowing by focusing on using their imaginations and thinking “outside the box.”  Here at the Palm Harbor Library, keeping kids creative is more than a passion for us – it’s a mission.

Since 2014, the Children’s Room has taken great pride in offering a distinct space where children between the ages of 5 and 12 can create with any supplies (and without parental direction).  But, times are different now, and sadly, the Hazel L. Incantalupo MakerSpace must remain closed for the time being.  However, we will not be prevented from offering quality arts and crafts for kids of all ages!

Since June, the Library has offered a weekly selection of “Take & Makes”: pre-bagged crafts for kids ages 3 and up.  If we cannot offer our usual services, whether that’s the MakerSpace or events and craft times, we must continue to provide an opportunity for our kids to get their hands on some arts and crafts supplies.  With every craft kit we distribute we’re hoping to plant a seed in children for a love of the Arts and an opportunity for focus away from digital media.  Especially now when distance learning is the only way many of our community’s kids are interacting, it’s so important that they find a creative outlet with something physical.

Art is therapeutic.  And with the kind of year we’ve had so far, taking a moment to slow down and focus on a project solely for enjoyment is essential to the well-being of people of all ages.

So, parents and caregivers, remember to be mindful of finding some quiet time to get creative with your kids – they are going to need it now more than ever.  Keep their imaginations oiled with a story, their hands busy with artistic vision, and their minds processing new and unusual ideas.  Don’t forget, the more kids see their caregivers modeling creativity and innovation, the more they will pick up the habits!

And just to make it a little easier on you, stop by our Children’s Room once a week for a jumping off point…

Marisa Steuer, Head of Youth Services

“All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older.” Madeleine L’Engle

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September’s Artist Spotlight:

Mitch Lowenstein

The Palm Harbor Library is fortunate to collaborate with and support local artists. As you may know, our John Brock Art Alcove exhibits local art works, from photography to paintings to sculptures. 

This month we’d like to shine the spotlight on Mitch Lowenstein, a ceramist whose work will be displayed in our Alcove through October.

I had the pleasure to talk with Mitch over the phone and chat with him about his background, his artistic journey, and his future projects. 

Mitch is a retired dermatology physician but he’s very active in the community. Currently he volunteers at two free clinics and also assists with the COVID Advisory Phone Line. In addition to making beautiful ceramics, he also plays jazz on piano. 

Mitch moved to Florida in 1978 from Connecticut and grew his roots here with his family. In 2006, he and his wife decided to try out a new ceramics course at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. He was immediately hooked. Taking instruction from Glenn Woods, he enjoyed learning about the graceful shapes and crystalline glazes. He also found the process of making ceramics very meditative. He says, “I draw the original idea as a picture, but then the clay has its own mind.” 

He fondly recalls selling his works in his medical office. He’d display the pieces in the waiting area, and patients would buy them and bring them in the examination room to show him, excited about their new purchase. But Mitch has also gifted much of his work to friends, and he chuckles as he remembers visiting these friends’ homes and seeing a piece of work that looked quite “familiar.”

When asked what was the best piece of advice he ever received in regards to making art, he explains that it’s all about the process of learning. “Don’t be terribly invested in the results,” he says, “but find a way to use art in a way that helps others.”

Mitch is excited to display his work in our art exhibit and found our library warm and nurturing. He looks forward to sharing his gift with the community. And speaking of sharing his talent… every year, Mitch creates a piece of pottery and donates it to the Clearwater Free Clinic Fundraiser. His pieces are also displayed at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

To learn more about Mitch and his work please visit him at mitchelllowenstein.com, and, of course, come into our library September and October to check out his pottery display!

Tamara, Marketing Coordinator

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Why We Need Libraries Now More Than Ever

(7/24/2020)

The Palm Harbor Library has been recognized in our community for being the cornerstone of a thriving Palm Harbor, where patrons enrich their lives by utilizing the library’s many resources. From literacy tutoring, job assistance, medicare planning, art exhibits, children’s programs, musical events, a gaming center–and so much more–our community has come to see us as a definite educational and cultural center.

But why is this mission important to us? Why do we strive to serve the community in the best, healthiest, and most innovative way possible?

To answer these questions, we must go back to the inception of not only the Palm Harbor Library–but the earliest libraries of the world. Many historians believe ancient book collections thrust humans from prehistoric times to the recording of human history. Information compiled on clay tablets began the recording of knowledge, and gave birth to ancient scribes–the earliest librarians. Commercial transactions, medical discoveries, and government laws were now immortalized as written words and passed down from generation to generation, building more complex societies and better education. The wonders of all Ages are built on the connection of written words, community partnership, continued learning, and access to imagination and ideas.

Now thirty years into the digital revolution, one may think that such outdated forms of record keeping is no longer valuable, and that in turbulent modern times not even a library can save us from our challenges. The truth is  libraries, the brick and mortar establishments, continue to stand as pillars of enlightenment and cultural morals. They are much more than record keeping, you see. They are the symbol of safe space, continual growth, and the flourishing of human interaction. We would argue that now more than ever libraries are essential to communities, which despite technological advancements still yearn for the communal bonds that serve them, educate them, and enrich them on a social level.

The Palm Harbor Library takes this mission and purpose seriously. It understands the imperative role of fulfilling social needs. The Palm Harbor community has a great history of partnership and fellowship after all. Palm Harbor Library Director Gene Coppola has witnessed this kinship by fondly remembering his own connection with Palm Harbor.

“In the 20 years I have been associated with the Palm Harbor community, I have seen progressive communal change, all for the good,” he explains. “In an unincorporated area of nearly 59,000 people, partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, CSA Palm Harbor, the Palm Harbor Historical Museum, FEAST, religious institutions and the downtown merchants have all brought the community forward in so many wonderful and lasting ways. I am just gratified that Palm Harbor Library’s role at the community table has also helped to improve the quality of life for all of its residents.”

The importance of libraries are essential especially during times of injustice and intolerance, and they serve as reminders of human compassion, the value of replacing blindness and fear with truth and mind cultivation. We continue to upkeep these values by providing free education and resources. Socioeconomic status remains at the door once you step into the sacred halls of libraries, recognizing everyone’s human worth. Libraries boost the community’s economy with their employment assistance, training, and financial guidance.

Libraries also work with medical and fitness providers so that patrons can make informed health decisions and strive for better self care. 

With free access to the internet and historical records, libraries share the truth and ways for members to find their own answers to burning questions. 

From children’s storytime to English tutoring, unemployed patrons searching for assistance, and teenagers needing a comfortable gaming spot, the Palm Harbor Library continues to serve and provide creative and socioeconomic connections to build the partnership Palm Harbor still values and conserves.

After all, from one of the earliest libraries in Alexandria, Egypt to our little corner of the world, it is a universal belief that knowledge and imagination are both powerful tools that can–and will– change the world.

This article was published in the Palm Harbor Beacon July 2020 by PHL Marketing Coordinator, Tamara Rokicki.