Suntan Art Center in St Pete Beach

Suntan Art Center Celebrates
the Art of Supporting Pinellas County Artists

. . .

“I love helping to promote other artists and plan our ever-evolving classes and workshops,” says Suntan Art Center Director Cindy Rodella-Purdy. “It is great to be part of a creative community. Currently, we have 58 artists and 1,000 products in the store.”

Rodella-Purdy moved from Dallas TX to Pinellas County in 2021 and started volunteering at Suntan Art Center (SAC) in St. Pete Beach. Her artwork was accepted to be shown and sold. On November 1, 2023, she was named Art Center Director.

Growing membership, classes and workshops is one important goal for SAC, and that expansion is already happening.

(L to R) Suntan Art Center Director Cindy Rodella-Purdy and Boutique Director Carrie Freitag with New Creation by Carla Rudolph, 1st prize winner in the SAC’s January Members Show

“I am one half of the team,” says Rodella-Purdy. “Carrie Freitag has been at SAC for four years, and she is the Craftsmen Boutique Director on the first floor of the Center on St. Pete Beach. She also manages the Art Mart on Pass-a-Grille Beach. I handle the Center and all classes and workshops.”

SAC continues to offer an a variety of mediums, techniques, events and opportunities in the arts for visual artists of all ages and experience levels. SAC members are beginning artists, accomplished professionals and retirees fulfilling their lifelong dreams for a second careers in the arts.

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cindy Rodella-Purdy has worked as an illustrator, designer, programmer, and project manager in digital media and picture book illustration and writing. Her passion for art has found a new home at Suntan Art Center, and she continues to fuel her company, Creative Cat Media, Inc.

The Suntan Art Center entrance

The Art of Membership
that “Feels Like Family”


Membership benefits include discounts on classes and early notice about events, workshops and showings. Members say they enjoy and learn from the camaraderie with like-minded people who create and support the arts and local artists.

Monthly Members Shows and Receptions where awards are announced and artists are recognized are held in the historic Don Vista building’s beautiful second floor gallery named The Milkey Family Foundation Gallery. Members’ Shows are juried and offer cash prizes. Artworks are displayed with award ribbons next to winning works. Artists and art lovers mingle and recognize artists’ talents and projects.

Suntan Art Center member Jannine LeMere with her work, . . . and still the one, which was awarded 3rd place in the February Members Show – image courtesy of SAC

SAC also offers special interest exhibitions including children and youth exhibitions. Joining this family of artists by becoming a member and getting involved in classes, workshops and exhibitions brings opportunities for professional and emerging artists alike.

Members say the confidence-building experience of seeing their artwork shown and admired by others is invaluable.


The Art of the Show
“Something magical happens”

Donna Mansbart earned Honorable Mention for her work, Albert the Barred Owl

Donna Mansbart moved to Pinellas County from Queens NY and is a full-time Florida resident. She has been a member of SAC since 2022. She says her membership is essential to her artistic development and recent successes.

“Being a member here gives you a connection to a fantastic community of artists who share their passion for art and encourage each other,” says Mansbart.

“SAC has a warm, family vibe to it. You never feel like a stranger here. We share techniques, insights and resources that help us improve our art. We attend each other’s shows and events to support each other.

“Instructor Douglas Land’s way of  teaching has increased my skills and trained me to see art in different ways that were all new to me,” adds Mansbart. “He glides through his demonstration, you follow along, and before you know it, boom! A picture appears.”

Drawing instructor Douglas Land demonstrating for the class

Through her SAC membership and taking Land’s drawing classes, Mansbart says she also made valuable connections with other artists and organizations. Neighboring arts organizations like Treasure Island Art Guild and individual artists throughout Pinellas County partner for shared opportunities.

In supporting each other, artists often discover new talents and mediums they may integrate into their own creations. New opportunities to exhibit their artwork are born.

Francine Michel teaches a senior class at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. When she saw my sketches of the birds of prey cared for in the Boyd Hill aviary, she asked me to participate in their Raptor Fest event this year,” says Mansbart.

“I love that SAC creates space for all levels of artists,” she adds. “As a beginner, it is extremely important to me to experience my art in an exhibit with such talented and seasoned artists. Listening to their feedback helps me grow.

“I received honorable mention ribbons for two different pieces in Members Shows at SAC. That feels great and inspires me to work harder on my art. When you frame your art and see it on the wall in an exhibition, something magical happens.”

Peggy Stein received an Honorable Mention in the January Members Show

Peggy Stein, a full-time Florida resident who moved to Pinellas County from Brooklyn NY, was awarded an Honorable Mention ribbon in the SAC January Members Show for her acrylic abstract painting titled A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

“When I participate in Members Shows, I do not expect to win any ribbons,” says Stein. “Boy does it feel good when it happens!

“Since I joined SAC, I have felt as though I am part of a very inclusive, encouraging group of artists. For the past nine months, I’ve been taking Doug Land’s drawing class, where I’ve been challenged to draw many different objects, portraits and landscapes. I see a difference in my drawing and am excited to see what my drawing will be like in a year from now.”

Stein shares studio space with two artists, all working in different mediums and often at different times on the sunlit second floor studio in the Don Vista building.

“This is a dream come true!” says Stein. “It is a wonderful experience sharing studio space with Francine Michel and Tammy Burk. I have a place to go and be creative without having to watch a clock – to be expressive without interference, and to be gifted with valued critique from other artists that I respect.”


The Art of Winning
January 2024 Members Show Awards

The Upstairs Gallery during the January Members Show

1st Place – New Creation – acrylic by Carla Rudolph

2nd Place – Step In – acrylic mixed media by Olga Calco

3rd Place – Sandra, Lovingly Remembered – by Jannine LeMere

Honorable Mention – Martini – photography by Carlton Taylor

Honorable Mention – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn –  acrylic by Peggy Stein


Love at First Sight
February 2024 Members Show Awards

Is It Love by Carla Rudolph – image courtesy of SAC

1st Place – Is it love – by Carla Rudolph

2nd Place – Le Chat Blanc  – by Jennifer Townsend Auge

Le Chat Blancby Jennifer Townsend – image courtesy of SAC

3rd place – … and still the one – by Jannine LeMere

and still the one by Jannine LeMere – image courtesy of SAC

Honorable Mentions – The Garden – by Carol Taylor

The Garden by Carol Taylor – image courtesy of SAC

Honorable Mentions – Love Me Daily – by Adria Bernstein

Love Me Daily by Adria Bernstein – image courtesy of SAC

Judged by Matthew and Fritz from St. Petersburg’s Werk Gallery

And the theme of the March 2024 Members Show is, Life’s A Beach!


The Art of Teaching Art


“We are looking to grow the classes and workshops, offering an ever-evolving variety,” explains Art Center Director Rodella-Purdy. “Our members are part of a community where exploring new mediums and techniques is supported, and the scope of classes and workshops continues to grow as art instructors and mentors offer more choices.

Let’s Monet’ is one example of a new idea for workshops coming up in March. ‘Drawing: Back to Basics’ with Instructor Douglas Land is an example of an ongoing class he has taught for years that continues to be very popular.”

Drawing instructor Douglas Land

Instructor Douglas Land says, “I enjoy teaching art and helping others develop their creative abilities. Putting ideas and images on paper can be challenging, but with study and practice it is rewarding.

“How we use different tools and materials in drawing can be similar in painting and sculpture. Understanding composition and design principals are necessary in creating all types of art, especially photography. I share such techniques through demonstrations in our class exercises and discussions.”

Eighteen people came to Land’s drawing class one Monday morning in January. It was easy to see that friendships grow along with sketching skills and creativity.

Land has an easygoing, encouraging teaching style, dotted with humor. It seems to relax students and melt any budding disappointments felt when an artist decides to start fresh with a new drawing.

Land reminds students to take breaks as needed. “Get up and walk around. Sometimes you will be more productive after walking away from a project and looking at other things — rather than pushing to finish.”

Having taught classes and workshops at various local art centers and museums in the Tampa Bay area, Land says he has happily taught drawing classes in the attractive, welcoming setting at Suntan Art Center for nearly 20 years.

“I very much enjoy teaching at Suntan,” shares Land. “The dedicated staff and volunteers here make a great team. The students each contribute to creating a wonderful class environment that encourages learning and enjoyment of drawing and art.”


The Art of Workshops that Feel like Play


In addition to Land’s ongoing class on Monday mornings, he offered a workshop in Drawing with Colored Pencils on two Wednesday mornings in February. Expanding the variety of mediums and techniques with new workshops and classes is encouraged. The Center is open and receptive to new ideas and methods to be explored in workshops that often artfully blend a fun, playful aspect with learning.

Creative Resin-ations and Let’s Monet! workshops are among those scheduled for this March. For more information on a variety of workshops at SAC for people of all artistic experience levels, you can check out

Suntan Art Center members sell their work poolside at the elegant Don CeSar Hotel on Saturdays from 11-3 – image courtesy of SAC social media

The Art of Gift Shopping


“People want to buy local art, especially anything “beachy” or coastal,” says Rodella-Purdy. “Jewelry is very popular in the [Suntan Art Center] Craftsmen Boutique and Art Mart.

“Our members also appreciate the opportunity to display and sell their art at the neighboring Don Cesar’s poolside patio on Saturdays, 11 am to 3 pm. It’s good to partner, and we have a great relationship with our neighbors at the Don Cesar. Hotel guests enjoy shopping for gifts while swimming and sunning poolside. Many visitors express a preference for beach-themed and coastal designs created by local artists when shopping for keepsake gifts for themselves and others.”

Suntan Art Center members sell their work all year round on weekends in historic Pass-a-Grille Beach – image courtesy of SAC social media

The Art of Funding Future Artists
with Scholarships


This year will be the third year that Suntan Art Center has awarded two $500 awards to Pinellas County high school student visual artists. In addition to scholarships, local schools are invited to display their students’ works at special student exhibitions at the SAC. On view through February 29 is the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School Student Show.

Young artists experience the pride and confidence boost of having their creations hanging in a public gallery where others can experience and admire it.

For three years, SAC has hosted an annual exhibition by the students of St Pete Beach’s Montessori by the Sea in the Libit Jones Gallery. These 3- to 12-year old students are so proud to show their artwork to family and friends.

The Montessori By the Sea Exhibit was on view at Suntan Art Center in December – image courtesy of SAC social media

Seminole’s Osceola Fundamental High School’s National Art Honor Society held an adjudicated exhibition complete with awards and a reception for family, friends and teachers. Many of the students sold their works.

When school was out for the summer, SAC hosted Pinellas County visual arts teachers with a two-person show in the gallery. Additional student exhibitions are planned for the spring.

To continue these programs, Suntan Art Center encourages charitable contributions to go specifically toward scholarship awards and student programs.


The Arty Party of the Season –
Let’s Twist Again 61st Birthday Bash

Save the Date – March 23, 6:30 to 9:30 pm, The Suntan Art Center’s 61st Birthday Bash and annual fundraiser at 3300 Gulf Blvd. on beautiful St. Pete Beach.

Celebrate in style at this Arty Party of the season, featuring a fun ’60s theme, costume party, photo booth, silent auction, fine art and fine crafts, tasty festival fare and beverages. A DJ will play ’60s music for your dancing and listening pleasure. Slip into your dancing shoes, hippie love beads, miniskirts or bell bottoms and as the Art Center’s poster says, “Let’s Twist Again!”


image courtesy of SAC social media

This annual fundraiser helps Suntan Art Center continue to provide so many vital programs and meaningful experiences and opportunities for talented, hard-working local artists. You can join the fun and experience the fabulous feeling of supporting your community’s arts and artists.

You can find ticket information and sponsorship opportunities here. Please note – no physical tickets are issued. Your name will be on the VIP list. Just stop by the registration table upon arrival. It’s so easy!

See you there!



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