Tackles Pocket Parks
Through June 30
DRV Gallery, Gulfport
For most people, getting outside in Florida means going to the beach and drinking tropical cocktails. But for landscape artist Shawn Dell Joyce, it means wheeling a crate full of pastels out to unique locations throughout Tampa Bay and painting en plein air.
The adventure begins in the fall, when the Florida heat dies down and the snowbirds make their way down from Canada, New York, New England and the American Midwest. This is when Joyce starts hitting local parks with her Plein Air Adventure students. Once a week, the group schleps their equipment to a different location within Pinellas County, beginning north and working their way south.
“Most of the sites we paint, we paint one time and then we move to the next one,” says Joyce. “So we tour lots of different spots in Pinellas. In the course of a season, there’s about 36 classes or so – so you wind up seeing at least 36 new places that you’ve never been.”
Joyce spends her summers between classes traveling the Pinellas Trail, scouting out new locations to paint.
“I take my bicycle on the Pinellas Trail and go from spot to spot until I find something unique and worth visiting,” says Joyce. “What I look for in a scene is something to both show the beauty of the area we’re in, but also the fragility.”
I joined Joyce’s Plein Air Adventure at Bay Vista Park in May to collect footage for a video project. The five-acre city park at the southeast tip of St. Petersburg has some of the best views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It’s large enough to accommodate five shelters but small enough to go unnoticed within Tampa Bay’s urban sprawl.
When I arrived, Joyce had already set up her easel at water’s edge and started to paint. Pastel in hand, she told me what she hopes to accomplish by visiting and painting places like St. Pete’s Bay Vista Park.
“This little pocket park is the only bit of nature within about 20 blocks…” says Joyce. “The next one would be Maximo further down. And for wildlife, this is crucial for their survival. But humans too.”
“We don’t realize how much we need nature and the peace and serenity you can find under the trees, in the shade, and on the grass,” says Joyce. “You know, without it, the stress would kill us.
“These little pocket parks are lifesavers not only for the wildlife but for us, so we try to show the beauty of them — why they’re worth preserving…”
As development encroaches upon the Tampa Bay area’s natural beauty, Joyce hopes her work encourages local municipalities to continue preserving these small patches of Florida wilderness.
“There’s always the opportunity to purchase land for the county and create new pocket parks,” she says. “So when that happens, we’re going to have a ready-made group of people with paintings ready to show the importance and beauty of these parks to any civic organization or municipality that’s interested…”
As Joyce’s plein air season ends, her community of plein air artists has already created a show’s worth of paintings highlighting the beauty of Tampa Bay.
. . .
Plein Air Adventure Group Show
on view through June 30
5401 Gulfport Boulevard South
Gulfport FL 33707