Art That Makes You Feel Like Celebrating

December 1, 2020 

Big Hair on a Starry Night by Sheryl L, member artist at Creative Clay

. . .

The Arts Coast Journal needs to ask, what work of art makes you feel like celebrating?

The lively range of answers that we got is inspiring and exhilarating.

As we approach the end of an astonishing year, we hope you can find many things to celebrate. As ever, we’re grateful for our vibrant arts community.

If you’d like to share a work of art that makes you feel like celebrating, we’ll keep
updating this feature. You can email


This modern still life by distinguished artist, teacher and advocate Charles McGee is full of color and fun, and  lots of nostalgia for me. Hard, sweet candies and peanuts are just the kind of festive snacks I might find at my grandma’s house growing up in the South in Atlanta.

The painting was accessioned into the Museum of Fine Arts’ collection last year. When I first saw a photo of it, a feeling of happiness swept over me. I just felt a connection to the work and McGee, a son of the South who was born in South Carolina.

When I learned it would be on view as part of the renovation and reinstallation of our MFA Collection galleries, I was incredibly excited to see it in person — and it didn’t disappoint! Hanging in the Modern Art gallery against smoky gray walls, it truly illuminates the room. I smile every time I see it, and I’m very proud our visitors are able to experience this great piece of art from a prominent Black artist.

McGee, based in Detroit, has been an artist for more than 70 years, and has continued to create art in his golden years. That, in of itself, is definitely worth celebrating!

– Lashonda Curry, Manager of Communications and PR, Museum of Fine Arts

Charles McGee, American, b. 1924, Untitled (Table Top Still Life), 1957, Oil on Masonite board, Museum purchase with funds donated by Jim Sweeny


Tammy Garcia, Santa Clara (Kha’p’o Owingeh),
born 1969, High Spirits, 2009, bronze (18/30)

In this playful bronze triptych, sacred Pueblo clowns climb across a rainbow arch. An important part of Pueblo ceremonies and celebrations, these clowns are recognized by striped clothing and hair that is parted in the middle and tied with corn husks.

While clowning can be a form of comic relief from serious ritual activities, it is also a way of reinforcing social norms by openly breaking taboos. With a dynamic background pattern of abstracted shapes, the work shows how Garcia blends her modern style with traditional subjects.

– Emily Kapes, Curator of Art at The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art


The first image that comes to mind when I think “celebration,” is Henri Matisse’s Dance. It’s an ode to joy, playfulness and physical abandonment.

Its scale, simplicity, bold fields of color and negative space show the master’s hand. I fell in love with the piece seeing it for the first time at MOMA as a young art student.

– Don Gialanella, Sculptor


Beautiful and Realistic Prehistoric
Rock Paintings in Colombia

Here’s my pick for art that makes me celebrate.

– Beth Daughtry, Arts Supporter


It happens that back in 2015 we made a sculpture titled Celebration.

Celebrating life and childhood innocence were my inspiration for this piece. Recently, it became part of the city of Coral Springs FL public art collection.

– Cecilia Lueza, Muralist
and Public Art artist


For me, the film Babette’s Feast is about so many forms of celebration – passionate, religious, culinary, artistic, monetary, etc. It has it all.

– Steven Kenny, Visual artist


There’s a book that has given me a lot of hope and joy during this pandemic. It’s called Autumn.

. . .
In the book Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard offers up 60 essays on everyday objects and states of mind that we encounter every day – apples, wasps, plastic bags, the Sun, teeth, porpoises, frogs, piss (who knew piss could be so interesting?), blood, lightning, rubber boots, jellyfish, fingers, loneliness, oil tankers, tin cans, pain, telephones, vomit, flies, forgiveness, buttons, toilet bowls, silence… well, you get the idea.  He wrote the essays for his unborn daughter, to introduce her to the world she was about to enter.

Autumn begins with Knausgaard’s letter to that daughter in utero. It is dated August 28. Amazingly, that was the very date I began to read the book. August 28 also is the birthdate of a childhood friend of mine who died on Earth Day five years ago. Like Knausgaard, he was Norwegian (on his mother’s side) and had been a writer of meticulous detail.

Mere coincidences? Or was the universe trying to tell me something? Whichever, Autumn captivated me. I found myself paying closer attention to everything in my own surroundings. What was I missing? The resolve of a white tern dive bombing into the Bay for his supper. The ebullience of my sisters’ laughter via Zoom. The flakiness of my morning croissant. I suddenly didn’t want to take anything for granted.

Knausgaard first gained international fame and notoriety with a massive work called My Struggle. A fictionalized autobiography which ran over 3,500 pages and was published in six volumes, the books created an uproar, not only because the Norwegian title, Min Kamp, echoes Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but because Knausgaard’s frank tell-all caused 14 members of his family to denounce him in an Olso newspaper.

Autumn is a smaller book, both in pages (240) and in intent. It is, however, linked to three other books called Winter, Spring and Summer.

This fall Autumn gave me reason to celebrate my restricted surroundings. The perfect pandemic read. Now I’m looking forward to reading the whole Quartet of Seasons, each in their corresponding times. Maybe once I get through Winter, Spring and Summer, the pandemic will be behind us.

One can only hope.

– Margo Hammond,
Journalist and Reader


Fred and Ginger every time.

– Paula Kramer,
Dancer and Choreographer


Hearing someone’s reaction after watching Happy New Year, the Sparks Collaborative Film. Having her tell me how it inspired her and what it meant to her.  

. . .
Walking through an Art Park on a beautiful day. Seeing the magnificence of the work and how it fits in nature. How we are all the same and yet different. Noticing the effect that the natural environment has upon the art and how it enhances my enjoyment. Besthoff Sculpture Gardens in New Orleans is so beautiful, one of my favorite places to go. One thing that would be great to have here (our murals are like our Art Park!).

– Eugenie Bondurant,
Actor and Filmmaker


Believe it or not, when I was a high school kid, I studied African dance – at the time it was called Afro-Caribbean dance. The accompaniment was always drumming – I even took an African drumming course one semester at NYU.

Babatunde Olatunji’s Drums of Passion was popular at the time. I have never been able to hear African drumming without wanting to dance until I drop – a celebratory impulse for sure.

– Jan Neuberger, Actor and Playwright


Claude Debussy, “Fêtes” from Nocturnes N°2

The finale is explosive.

– Jim Rayfield, Playwright and Director


My Choice is the Watts Towers by Simon Rodia.

Simon Rodia was truly reaching for the sky!
The story is exhilarating and his mark
is everlasting.
One man’s work, no help, no ladder,
no machines…
pure wonder.

– Shane Hoffman, Development
Coordinator at Creative Clay


Almost every night, waiting to fall asleep, I recite (to myself) this short poem by our old friend, poet William Meredith (1919-2007). 

        A Major Work

       Poems are hard to read
       Pictures are hard to see
       Music is hard to hear
       And people are hard to love

       But whether from brute need
       Or divine energy
       At last mind  eye  and ear
       And the great sloth heart will move.

It always makes me smile (even the title), and feel twinges of hope.

 – Peter Meinke, Florida Poet Laureate


. . .
I would like to share Earth Mother. The mural was just completed at Daystar Life Center’s organic community garden, where I met the artist, Daniel Barojas, and where I am both packing groceries for Meals on Wheels and working on the garden to grow food that we give to the homeless and hungry. I am delighted to see the way this mural and our gardening were coordinated!!!

– Marlys Meckler, Docent at
the Dalí Museum, the James Museum
and Florida CraftArt’s mural tours


1969, I was 14 years old and picked out my best mini-dress to attend my first concert. My mother was strict, but the neighbors invited me to see a singer they had followed before moving to Florida from Chicago. The Landis were a nice family, so she let me go.

Curtis Hixon Hall 1965 – State of Florida Archives

On arrival, I sensed a dress was not the outfit du jour and the concert was not at all what I expected. I smelled a strange outdoorsy fire smell which I learned was marijuana as the first joint I had ever seen was passed nearby. Pretty soon everyone was dancing on top of their chairs until the singer was stopped by the police onstage and told to tell everyone to get off the Curtis Hixon chairs. She turned to the requesting officer, flipped his hat into the air and suggested he get to know himself more intimately. No one got off their chairs but screamed louder with the music.

After the concert, Mrs. Landis lined us up on either side of the stage doors and handed us albums for Janis Joplin to sign. She burst out of the double doors with a cop on each arm and signed the record covers. I felt like this was home!

– Victoria Jorgensen,
Screenwriter and Filmmaker


I’m always inspired by the sound of voices floating in the night air at Shakespeare in the Park. There’s something magical about listening each night. 

photo by Our Photo Tribe

This image is from our first collaboration with Bob Devin Jones and The Studio@620, Shakespeare in the City: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I can’t wait to hear similar sounds in Williams Park in the future!

– Veronica Matthews, Artistic Director
of the St. Pete Shakespeare Festival


When I was seven, I began taking lessons on the violin.  My little sister, who was three years old at the time, insisted she wanted to learn to play, too. And so, without fail, for the next seven years, my mother took us to our weekly individual and group lessons.  Both my sister and I became quite accomplished classical violinists. 

After I took up the saxophone in 5th grade, my interest in the violin waned, until I gave it up during my sophomore year of high school.

Claudia Harrison

My sister, on the other hand, has never put the instrument down. Every time I listen to her play, either in a symphonic orchestra, or an Appalachian folk band, or in duet with a singer-songwriter friend, I melt into the music, appreciating every bow stroke, every note, in every genre she explores. Her musical skills and talents fill in my ears, delight me and inspire me daily.

– Rachel Harrison, Production
Stage Manager at American Stage


Arlo Parks is a 20-year-old British artist who has released a handful of one-off tracks this year ahead of an album release. Her songs are incredibly raw and poignant.

. . .
Eugene,” in particular, is about a teen falling in love with her bestie and how embittering it feels to watch her lavish attention on her boyfriend. (The song is stronger than the video.) That Parks has the self-awareness to create something so relatable strikes awe.

– Susana Darwin,
Screenwriter and Filmmaker


Here are two links to videos that make me happy in these uneasy and challenging times.

“Let The Mystery Be” sung by Iris Dement

Musings on a Maine Peapod: An American Dialogue

– Bob Barancik, Visual artist


I’m celebrating the completion of the sixth annual SHINE Mural Festival which was able to persist through the challenges of Covid-19.

SHINE 2020 Mural at USFSP by Kenny Coil and Marc Berenguer – photo by J Todd Wilkins

It was encouraging to see the positive community response and to be able to provide the artists with an opportunity to get back outside and do what they love. 

– Jenee Priebe, Associate Director of the SHINE Mural Festival


A painting that has always reminded me to celebrate life was created in 1939 by Abraham Rattner and is entitled Still Life Composition in Green (oil on canvas, 32 x 25 3/4 in., Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs. On loan from the SPC Foundation, Inc. 1997.1.1.24).

. . .
Forced to depart France before the impending invasion of the Nazis in 1939, Still Life Composition in Green was one of the last paintings created by Abraham Rattner before he left Paris after living there for nineteen years.  Rather than to create a painting of regret, Rattner chose a bountiful still life of fruits and French liqueurs that celebrate the good life.  He includes a note dedicating the work to his wife Bettina and to the life they had enjoyed. 

I often think of this painting as a reminder to celebrate with gratitude the life we have had, whatever changes or adversity we may face in the future.   

– Lynn Whitelaw, Curator


From her Soft Walls to her towering View from Milford Sound, Akiko Kotani‘s work provides comfort and hope in these dark times.

Akiko Kotani – Soft Walls at HCC Dale Mabry

Also, the early part of Homer’s Odyssey – Calypso offers Odysseus the following: immortality, total comfort, freedom from any labor other than sexual congress with the beautiful nymph. But Odysseus longs for his wife Penelope, who has been waiting 20 years for his return. . .

– Bernie Freydberg, Writer and Philosophy professor


In the quiet of my mornings, I celebrate the persistent calm and beauty of paintings by Claude Monet.

. . .
In the bright sun of day,

I yell at the top of my voice – YEAH!!!  BIDEN!!!

Akiko Kotani, Visual artist


I have spent much of the last several months listening to Songs to Wake Up To by St. Petersburg band Mountain Holler

. . .
And my newest addition to my art collection is a Zulu Painter piece called When Liberty Sleeps, which I hung outside the door of my new studio in Atlanta, and I could not love it more.

– Becca McCoy, Actor


The Waterboys, “Fisherman’s Blues”

I have to ration how often I listen to this – such a heady wave of joy and yearning that it’s a physical rush.

– Sheila Cowley, Playwright and Editor


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