Lakeland Art Crawl Showcases Artists Of All Abilities For 7th Year
by James Coulter
Some people would assume that individuals confined to wheelchairs with disabilities are incapable of creating art. Young artists such as Melony from Tampa proves them wrong and teaches them not to underestimate people such as herself.
A client of Tampa School of the Fine Arts, Melony is one of many young people who have been taught to create art in spite of their physical or developmental disabilities. She had a chance to share her talent during an art walk in Lakeland last Saturday.
Though she may be confined to a wheelchair due to her cerebral palsy, Melony does not allow her special needs to prevent her from displaying her special talents. Using a brush attached to a stick, she lays back and dabs the canvas with a splattering of colors. What results is a masterpiece unlike any other.
Mari Saito, an instructor and art coordinator at the school, helps individuals like Melony discover their artistic potential using tools of all sorts from shoes to potato mashers.
“It is a wonderful experience working and helping clients,” she said.
Saito and her organization were invited to attend the Art Crawl on Saturday in Lake Munn Park. Originally hosted by and at the Polk Museum of Art, the event eventually splintered into its own 501c3 non-profit organization and is hosted every November.
The Art Crawl draws in dozens of artists, both proffesional and amateur, from within Polk County and across Central Florida. These artists congregated within Munn Park to showcase their diverse talents, from run-of-the-mill paintings and sketches to decorated skateboards.
Darlene Melius, a Lakeland local, showcased many of her acrylic paintings created using whiskey barrels. She had been painting ever since she was 12, but had recently started creating portraits using wooden whiskey barrels as canvases.
“I had a whiskey barrel for a year,” she said. “It sat there, and I wondered what I could do with it, and we decided to cut it up and paint on it.”
Melius takes her own photos of different subjects ranging from wildlife to landscapes. She then uses those photos as guides to paint upon whiskey barrels using acrylic paints.
Originally from New York, she took art classes in high school and college. She later taught several classes as an art teacher upon moving to Polk County. She had been attending shows such as this for several years, and recently started attending the art crawl last year.
“A friend of mine told me about it and asked me to join, so I did,” she said. “I like supporting the local art.”
For the seventh consecutive year, the annual Art Crawl allows artists of all talents and abilities to congregate within Munn Park and showcase their artwork. Within the very center of the park, attendees could use chalk to create their own art on the sidewalk.
Initally, the event was hosted within the parking lot at the Polk Museum Of Art in Lakeland. The event has since outgrown its original location and had moved to Munn Park.
The original event drew in 50 artists and 2,000 attendees; this year’s event drew in 75 artists and more than 10,000, explained Sandra Horan, Public Relations Manager. Aside from allowing local artists to display their work, the event also draws in visitors to the downtown area and surrounding businesses, she said.
“[I love] seeing all the fabulous art and seeing all the people really great joy in being able to purchase pieces,” she said. “It brings people downtown. It is a draw for tourism. It also enriches our community as a whole because we are talking about art and buying art and supporting artists and it is a great place…it supports people who may not have art as a full-time job yet, but it is something they aspire to do and this is supporting them as they work toward that goal.”
To learn more about the Lakeland Art Crawl, visit their website at: https://artcrawlfl.com/