Lighthouse ArtCenter’s director looks ahead to building gallery/school’s outreach
by Mary Thurwachter, Florida Weekly
A GALLERY REMODEL WAS AMONG THE FIRST TASKS undertaken during Nancy A. Politsch’s first year as executive director at Lighthouse ArtCenter. This year, the gallery’s exterior will be treated to a spruce-up, too.
There have been more changes. Some technical issues with phones and computers have been addressed and a new POS system keeps track of donors and staff, so business matters are running more smoothly. Membership is increasing. Classes, teachers and equipment, including a new soda kiln, are being added to the school.
It’s all part of Ms. Politsch’s mission for the center to have a bigger draw. “I don’t want to be the best kept secret in Tequesta,” she said. “I want people to know about us. I would like to pull in some younger people. We appeal to a lot of those 45 and above. We get younger people through the camps, where parents are often in their 30s.”
Founded in 1964 by eight artists and Christopher Norton, the son of the founders of the Norton Museum of Art, the Lighthouse ArtCenter has surely evolved way beyond Norton’s expectations, Ms. Politsch said. The museum and school of art have become northern Palm Beach and southern Martin counties’ oldest and largest visual arts organization.
A fine art collection, docent tours, lectures, educational exhibits, concerts and special events are all parts of mix.
The center’s school of arts, housed in a separate building within easy walking distance of the museum, provides classes for children and grown-ups in drawing, ceramics, sculpture, jewelrymaking, painting, photography and summer camps.
A nonprofit charitable organization, the center serves upward of 60,000 people a year.
“The ArtCenter is here to engage, educate, entertain and enrich our community,” Ms. Politsch said. And part of her job is to make sure people know about it.
Born in Kansas City and raised in St. Louis, Ms. Politsch moved to Florida last year. And, while she enjoys photography (above and underwater) and fused glass art — and has won awards for her work and published two books of her photography, she doesn’t consider herself to be an artist. “I’m not here to promote myself,” she said.
In fact, her background is in banking and wealth management. She has an MBA from the University of Missouri.
Prior to taking the job at Lighthouse ArtCenter, Ms. Politsch was a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Private Bank in Baltimore. But the arts have always been an important part of her life, as well. Before the move to Florida, she was on the board of directors executive committee for the Maryland Hall Center for The Creative Arts in Annapolis, was chairwoman of its finance committee and chaired the center’s annual fundraising event.
Some of the board members in Maryland were also on the board at Lighthouse. That’s how she learned of the executive director’s position in Florida.
“I’m involved in everything here,” Ms. Politsch said. “I know a little about lots of stuff because of travel, because of clients, because of experience. I’m grateful I have a lot to bring to this.”
Her financial background and her work in Annapolis make her a good choice for the job. Early in her life, Ms. Politsch, who resides in Port St Lucie with her husband and her 80-year-old parents, says she contemplated a different career path.
“I love dogs and went to college to be a veterinarian,” she said. “I did not do well in my science classes and moved to journalism. I knew I was a good photographer, but could I make a living? I switched to finance and it came easy. I have been in the financial services industry for over 38 years. I have managed mutual funds and portfolios for foundations and wealthy individuals. I have been able to travel for work and meet many wonderful people.”
Ms. Politsch was named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by The Daily Record, which recognizes outstanding women who are both professional and community leaders.
Her advice to young folks looking for success: “In any field, love what you do. Life is too short to be miserable. And it’s not all about the money.”
At Lighthouse ArtCenter, Ms. Politsch, 59, oversees a $1.3 million budget. Revenues come from memberships, grants, school tuition and two fundraisers — the annual Plein Air Festival, with nationally recognized artists painting for four days, capturing the beauty and everyday sights at various locations in Jupiter, Juno Beach, Northwood Village and Palm Beach; and D’art for Art, which features dinner and artwork, jewelry, and artisan home decor donated by local and national artists, galleries and designers. The ArtCenter’s popular “3rd Thursdays” give visitors a chance to mingle with other art aficionados while sipping wine and nibbling hors d’oeuvres and listening to concerts, lectures, art demonstrations, live performances and gallery talks.
“We have a very generous board,” Ms. Politsch said. They help in many ways, including by underwriting events.
Ms. Politsch’s five-year goal is to fund a new building, which would allow the ArtCenter gallery and the school to be in the same spot. For that to happen, 20,000 square feet are needed.
“Our exhibits are fantastic,” she said. “We have shows here you will never see anywhere else.
One example: “Illuminating the Deep,” which showcased the collaborative genius of the internationally-recognized authority on bioluminescence, Dr. Edie Widder, and the artist, Steven Bernstein, PhD, combining art and science. Their photographic images of unimagined creatures, captured in the depths of the sea, accompanied by informational panels, provided a colorful and engaging introduction to the language of light (and giant squid) in the oceans.
“We’re bringing in a wearable art show later this year,” Ms. Politsch said.
The current show, which runs through Aug. 11, “Drawn to the Arts,” brought in 15 children’s books authors/illustrators, including Lighthouse’s curator, Janeen Mason, author and illustrator of national award-winning children’s books.
The center’s Summer Enrichment Camp continues through Aug. 11 and an end-of-summer show of campers’ work will be displayed through the week of Aug. 7. Lighthouse will have a back-to-school bash Aug. 13, when summer Art- Campers will be invited back to celebrate with Page Turner Adventures, receive prizes for their artwork and create a temporary community art installation.
There’s always something going on, always so much to do.
“The days go superfast,” she said, “and it’s pretty much what I expected. I’m working harder now than I ever did in my career. But it’s a labor of love.”
Tequesta, Florida - This astonishing exhibition falls into the NEVER GOING TO COME AROUND AGAIN category. Fern Samuels Retrospective Show and Sale to benefit the Lighthouse ArtCenter runs Tuesday, November 8th – Saturday, November 12th with a reception to celebrate her memory on Thursday, November 10th from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Fern Samuels received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, and her Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She retired from the Art Department of Columbia College Chicago, where she taught for twenty-five years as an associate professor.
Upon retirement a scholarship was established in her name to help needy art students. Samuels was a founder and past president of ARC Gallery, one of the first women’s cooperative galleries in the world.
Samuels had twenty solo exhibitions and fifteen museum shows plus numerous group shows. She won nine first place awards during her career.
She was a member of the National Society of Women Artists, a founding member of Florida Artists Group, and she’s listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who of American Women.
Upon her passing, Fern Samuels’ work was donated to the Lighthouse ArtCenter for a retrospective show and sale to benefit the ArtCenter, where she was an active participant. Janeen Mason, Curator, worked closely with Ms. Samuels’ family to determine reasonable prices so everyone can afford to collect a piece of Fern’s spectacular art.
Tequesta, FL — Aug. 3, 2016 — Lighthouse ArtCenter announced today the names of the 35 artists selected to participate in the 2017 Paint Palm Beach en Plein Air competition now in its 4th year at North Palm Beach County’s critically acclaimed art gallery and education center. The event will take place March 8-12, 2017. Plein Air has become a popular competition throughout the world, giving artists different venues to create in, while being challenged by the length and surroundings of the four-day contest. The selected artists compete for prize money and are able to display their work at the Lighthouse ArtCenter for gallery visitors to view, offer their opinions and purchase a favored painting at the Collector’s Party on Saturday, March, 11th, final day of competition. Paintings may also be purchased “wet” from the artist at the painting sites.
“We modified this year’s artist selection process after an outstanding 2016 competition,” said Lighthouse ArtCenter’s Chair of Painting and Drawing and Co-Chair of this event, Ted Matz. “Feedback from our former contestants suggested we narrow our field of artists to give each participant more exposure to the crowds drawn to watch them when they’re sketching and painting at the various venues. ”
With more than 120 applicants for the limited slots, Matz said the selection process became one of scoring several criteria, not all of which were based on direct artistic skills. “We wanted to be fair to artists who may not have participated in our Plein Air competition in the first three years. And fair to the Lighthouse ArtCenter patrons who want to see how new artists interpret our local scenery when challenged to capture it on canvas.”
The 35 artists selected scored highest when evaluated by the following:
2. Overall Quality
3. Consistency of Style
4. Technical Skills
5. Marketability to Audience
“We are thrilled by the artistic diversity selected to compete in March 2017,” said Lighthouse ArtCenter Curator Janeen Mason. “We had submissions from artists in 27 states and two who are international. We are excited to see how these artists translate our South Florida seascapes, landscapes and architecture.”
Here are the names and hometowns of the artists competing in Lighthouse ArtCenter’s 2017 Paint Palm Beach en Plein Air competition:
It’s a feast for the eyes as the best work by artists of sixteen art associations, from Miami to Vero Beach, is on display at the Lighthouse ArtCenter. The work was juried and judged, resulting in twenty-two awards presented at the 6th Annual Art of Association exhibition opening reception at the ArtCenter in Tequesta.
Curator Janeen Mason, announced the winners to the capacity crowd that took place at the June 3rd Thursday event and Executive Director, Nancy Politsch presented the awards. Jane Davis Doggett, 2016 inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, Jennifer Elser, CEO of the Elliott Museum and Nancy Politsch, served as the judges.
Collaboration and cooperation are key to the Art of Association, which showcases 375 original works of art from 186 exhibiting artists. Participating art groups include Art Associates of Martin County, Artists in Florida, Fabric and Florals by Choice, Jensen Beach Art League, Lake Worth Art League, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artists’ Guild, Lighthouse Camera Club, North County Art Association, Palm Beach County Art Teacher’s Association, Plein Air Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie Art League, South Florida Basket & Fiber Guild, Studio Art Quilting Association Pod 7 and Pod 8, Wellington Art Society and Women in the Visual Arts.
"This is an exhibition in which art lovers and collectors can see, as well as purchase, the best work by members of art associations in our region. There are outstanding pieces of art ranging from representational and abstract paintings to photography, ceramic sculptures and glass work to fiber art,” said Executive Director Nancy Politsch. “The openings, lectures and exhibition this summer also offer the participating artists an opportunity to network, share ideas and expand their horizons.”
BEST OF SHOW: Roehl Acosta, Wellington Art Society, Title: Florida Wave
SCULPTURE, 3-D ANDJEWELRY
• 1st Place: Nancy Politsch, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artist Guild, Glass, Title: Silver Glow
• 2nd Place: Bill Jones, North County Art Associates, Turned wooden bowl with inlaid turquoise, Title: Southwest Trails
• 3rd Place: Carolyn Austin, North County Art Associates, Hand-Blown Glass, Title: Purple Haze
• 1st Place: Barbara Watler, Studio Art Quilting Association Pod 7, Quilted Applique, Title: Vibrations
• 2nd Place: Cindy Bartosek, South Florida Basket and Fiber Guild, Eco Print on Silk, Title: Natural Impressions
• 3rd Place: Ellen Anderman, SAQA Pod 8, Quilted Applique, Title: Color My World
• Honorable Mention: Malle Whitaker, South Florida Basket and Fiber Guild, Reed and natural materials on stoneware base, Title: Rebirth
ABSTRACT, MIXED MEDIA, ENCAUSTIC
• 1st Place: Karen Angstadt, Jensen Beach Art League, Ink on Fiber, Title: Puppy Love
• 2nd Place: Lorrie Williamson, Florida Artist Guild, Mixed Media, Title: Passion for Life
PAINTING, OIL AND ACRYLIC
• 1st Place: Tonya Witzel, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artist Guild, Oil on Canvas, Title: Portico Reflections
• 2nd Place: Laurie Snow Hein, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artist Guild, Acrylic on Canvas, Title: Hunter’s Paradise
• 3rd place: Kris Davis, Palm Beach County Art Teachers Association, Oil on Canvas, Title: Rhythm
• Hon. Mention: Susan Greeley, Women in the Visual Arts, Acrylic on Canvas, Title: Kingston Road Market
WATERCOLOR AND PASTEL
• 1st Place: Carmen Lagos, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artist Guild, Watercolor, Title: Nature’s Way of Weaving
• 2nd Place: Gustavo Castillio, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artist Guild, Watercolor, Title: Sweetwater for Sale
• 3rd Place: Lynn Morgan, Florida Artist Group, Pastel on Paper, Title: Heaven and Earth
• Hon Mention: Kathryn Adele Schumacher, Lighthouse ArtCenter Artist Guild, Title: Elephant Walk
PHOTOGRAPHY AND DIGITAL
• 1st Place: Barry Schein, Artists in Florida, Photography, Title: Masai One
• 2nd Place: Don Lacy, Lighthouse Camera Club, Photography, Title: December Morning
• 3rd Place: Debbie Rubin, Women in the Visual Arts, Photography, Title: The Barbershop
• Hon Mention: Judy Norton, Lighthouse Camera Club, Photography, Title: Red Dragonfly
It has been said it takes a village to raise a child. Ignacio Valdez is the youngest of seven children born to Mexican parents. Growing up there was no English spoken in their home. It was not until he enrolled in public school that he began to learn English.
Ignacio was in a class I was working with on behalf of my charity, Martin County Special Needs Training. I teach art and art history. Without this all-volunteer program, the students normally would not receive this benefit. We have been servicing many of the special needs classes in the Martin County School District for 14 years.
When Ignacio attended my classes, I could see he was a very talented and gifted young man. I first met him when I was teaching at Dr. David Anderson Middle School. Ignacio was in the sixth grade. He did not always come to school, probably because he had little interest or need for the other subjects being taught. Something in my class really touched him. He was in my class again in the seventh and eighth grades.
When Ignacio went on to Martin County High School, I asked his teacher to be sure he received art as an elective. I also asked the art teacher at Martin County High to be on the lookout for him. They both obliged and Ignacio had art as an elective.
In his freshman year, Ignacio said he wanted to be an artist. I saw he had a special talent: perfect perspective and perfect proportion. He could look at something and make it larger or smaller perfectly.
He was subsequently "mainstreamed" and no longer in my art class. In his second and third years he won art contests in school and the teachers became aware of his talents. They, too, became part of the village to help him.
I kept in contact with Ignacio, and the charity has helped by paying for him to take classes at The Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta. Ignacio's dream to become an artist continues to grow. His interest in school has grown since he enrolled at The Lighthouse ArtCenter.
We are all mentoring him so his dream might one day be fulfilled. He has now decided he wants to go to college and major in art.
Because he was originally "special needs," he will be due to graduate in June with a diploma that would not allow him to attend a four-year college. Thanks to his guidance counselor and others, this has been rectified.
It is very hard today to establish yourself as an artist. However, as luck would have it, something new has been added to Ignacio's life. My wife, Sandy Bernstein, likes to needlepoint. We came up with the idea for Ignacio to try to paint needlepoint canvases and sell them to retail stores.
The owner of Stitches by the Sea, in Delray Beach, was blown away by his talent when we took a few canvases to her to critique. She already has purchased several pieces for her shop. Her comment to Sandy was: "I have enough work to keep him really busy!"
We are very hopeful this introduction to the art world will help him make a name for himself. In addition, it will enable him to pay for college and fulfill his dream.
Jordan Bernstein teaches art classes through the all-volunteer nonprofit called Martin County Special Needs Training.