Make a Play Date at the Dunedin Fine Art Center

The Dunedin Fine Art Center’s
Fall Exhibits Encourage Tampa Bay
to be More Playful in Art and Life

Through October 15
Dunedin Fine Art Center
Details here

What does it mean to be playful with your art?

The answer lies in a collection of visual art exhibits at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

Every fall, DFAC’s curatorial team takes down their summer exhibitions and starts fresh with a new theme. They’ve drawn on many themes in the past — architecture, circus sideshows, space, food, multiculturalism, color.

This year’s theme is play.

“The creative process is based on play,” says exhibiting artist Nancee Clark. “You have to get into it – play around with it. That’s how the ideas come. That’s how the ideas fruit.”


LA artist Alex Cline (@alexclineart) combines Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor to make colorful, cartoonish illustrations like (L to R) “Coco Learns to Fly,” “Get on Your Groovy Little Plane” and “Never Hurting for Eggs.”

DFAC’s fall exhibitions demonstrate how artists incorporate play into their work. Some return to childish things – using toys, games and ice cream to inspire their art. Some use kid-friendly media like animation, cutting and pasting, colored pencils, comics and cardboard boxes.

Some embrace a classic cartoon style. Some create toys. Others play with reality, embracing the fantastical, deriving delight from life’s absurdities and twisting tragedy into comedy.

Cory Robinson’s signature comic cats tell DFAC visitors, “You look great being you,” and “Just a reminder — you are doing the best you can.” Unlike his CL illustrations, these are hand-painted originals.
Artists Cory Robinson,
Amy Santoferraro
and Jane Housham
Turn Childhood Hobbies into Art


Tampa artist Cory Robinson (@mrcoryrobinson) began his career creating art inspired by skateboard graphics. [Disclaimer, Cory also works as the Arts Project Manager for Creative Pinellas.]

“I started skateboarding at age nine, and it’s definitely determined my art path,” Robinson said during his September 15 artist talk. “The activity of skating is directly linked to my art. There are graphics on almost every skateboard. I was immersed in looking at graphics and obsessed with skating so young.

“So many artists I’m influenced by today have gone far past the skate industry and become huge artists or filmmakers.”

During the pandemic, Robinson’s work became less about skateboarding and more about bringing positive messages into the world during difficult times. He still does this as a regular contributing illustrator to Creative Loafing Tampa.

Robinson has two works of art — both inspired by his weekly Creative Loafing illustrations — in DFAC’s exhibit LOL: Funny Papers.

“I wanted to create almost like motivational posters, but of course, they’re hand-painted and not printed,” says Robinson. “If one person finds joy in these images, I’ve done a good job.”

In “Kowtow Mountain,” Amy Santoferraro’s collections come to life as three-dimensional still-lifes combining rocks and mirrors with plastic fruit in the series, “Fruits and Stones, Fluff and Bones.”

Artist Amy Santoferraro (@santoferraro) collected the silica gel packs found in new shoes as a child. As an adult, she continues collecting, shopping thrift stores, dollar stores, hobby stores and hardware stores, looking for interesting items to incorporate into her art.

For the digital print, “Color Squares” exhibited in “PLAY On!” Jane Housham creates a color palette from toy dinosaurs, animals, cars and figurines. A pig is luminous orange, a giraffe-bronze blush, a fish-Picasso blue.

UK artist and collector Jane Housham (@foundandchosen) collects toys for inspiration, curating and photographing them to create colorful works of art.


City of Ghosts Artists
Express Themselves
Through Child-Friendly Media


Seventeen artists contributed to Elizabeth Ito’s City of Ghosts, a Peabody Award-winning animated children’s series released in 2021 and streaming on Netflix. City of Ghosts tells LA’s history through a series of friendly ghost stories.

Curator Nathan Beard watched the show with his daughter Vera during the pandemic. And thanks to a loan from Ito, DFAC visitors can watch all six episodes within DFAC’s Douglas-Whitley Gallery, surrounded by art made by City of Ghosts artists in various media, old and new.

‘City of Ghosts” artists Elizabeth Ito (@ottersnaps) and Pendleton Ward (@buenothebear) bring their animation into art galleries by placing animated ghosts into jars, creating digital sculptures that resemble snow globes in shape and size.

City of Ghosts artists play with more than just animation. Each has carried on interesting projects apart from the animated series.

Character designer Claire Nero (@clairenerosart) brings her work to art galleries as cut-paper collage. Photograph courtesy of Claire Nero via Instagram.

Using cut-paper collage and colored pencils, these artists show DFAC visitors what’s possible when you put children’s art supplies in the hands of professional visual artists.

Next door, the children’s hands-on art museum at DFAC lets kids experiment with child-friendly media like colored chalk and UV crayons.
“PLAY On!” Artists
Create Toys as Sculpture


Curators Nathan Beard and Catherine Bergmann collaborated on PLAY On! – assembling work from seven sculptors who make toys. Beard found the artists on Instagram, and they come from all over — New York, New Mexico, Maine, Pennsylvania, the UK and California.

Portland, Maine-based sculptor Rich Entel (@entelmenagerie) makes cardboard toys like “Flying Dragon” with his daughter Emily.
New Mexico-based creature designer Weston Brownlee (@weston.brownlee)  3D prints and hand paints goblin toys.
Playing With Reality


Throughout DFAC’s fall exhibits, artists play with reality, imagining worlds where cats talk (Cory Robinson), spirits live among us (Leecifer) and castles are frosted like doughnuts (DFAC Summer Art Academy students).

Here are a few of our favorite examples of artists embracing fantasy and mythology in PLAY On! and LOL: Funny Papers.

In “Self-Sustaining,” Meryl Bennett’s (@merylbennett) fantastical serpent sustains itself with its own milk.
Leecifer (@leecifer1) personifies spectral spirit fires and ghostly beings in his handcast and painted art toys.
Yhali Ilan (@yhaliilan) creates a world in a bubble within “Meanwhile,” which won an honorable mention in “LOL: Funny Papers.”
Cats dance in Maryann Charmoz’s (@theplayfulpotter_dunedin) reproduction of “Coco Goes Dancing.”
Sarasota-Bradenton Artist Nancee Clark
Turns Tragedy Into Comedy


DFAC presents Nancee Clark’s work in the solo exhibition, Insights and Follies, on view through December 23 in the Entel Family Gallery. Clark’s work is more fine art than comic book style. Yet, despite her paintings’ rich colors and solid foundation in fine art techniques, Clark is no less playful than the illustrators and animators whose work DFAC is displaying in neighboring galleries.

Clark’s work took a turn after a family tragedy changed her focus. As she began to reflect on life’s absurdities in the wake of tragedy, Clark started to paint people as monkeys and tables as stages.

“In current paintings, I create my own strange spaces of irony populated with intimate, playful, and often ambiguous narratives of human falling,” Clark read from her artist statement. “They’re my visual response to life’s ever-changing moments where what is expected is not what actually occurs…”

Nancee Clark’s “Going Up” depicts an elevator operator, mouth agape, eyes on a wall and hand on a bubble, appearing lost in space. Photograph courtesy of DFAC Communications Director Cassy Combs via Facebook.

Clark points to Going Up as her most playful piece in Insights and Follies. She created the painting while her aunt was in a care home for Alzheimer’s disease.

“A woman was talking to a wall,” Clark recounts. “Of course, her wall wasn’t the ether, bubbles or a flying saucer. It has to do with consciousness.”

In other works, Clark’s love of play is more direct, like in The Play, The Game where monkeys play ball, Somersault where women perform somersaults underwater, and The Ring Game where bright orange hula-hoop-like rings encircle legs and feet.

For Clark, play shows itself in both process and subject matter.

Poster artist Tara McPherson (@taramcpherson) creates vinyl figurines like the Stellar Dream Scouts, who navigate the dream world.

Wandering through DFAC’s galleries during the opening reception for their fall exhibitions, I considered how I could be more playful in my work.

That’s the effect these exhibitions have, which is why I encourage all artists and creators to see them – they might inspire you to try something new.

Free to email if you’d like to share how you incorporate play into your creative process.


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