Summer of ‘YESes’ Opens Doors for Young Artist
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Summer of ‘YESes’ Opens Doors for Young Artist

Summer of ‘YESes’ Opens Doors for Young Artist

How do you get a young artist to flourish? Surround her with a supportive community. 

Even after I dedicated two pages in the July issue of EverythingBrevard magazine to celebrating local mentors in the arts, I have more praise to shower upon more local art leaders. In each instance, it was an adult who said, “YES!” to a child’s potential.

Let’s start with some NOs, though, for perspective. In 2019, I was three years into being a musical theater mama. My kid, Ella Grace Helton, was cast as Lord Farquaad in Shrek The Musical Jr. and we made a cute fundraising flyer to take to area businesses, seeking playbill ads. 

We visited many places where we’d spent money time and again: restaurants, the dentist, pizza and ice cream joints. Every time, a NO. Even as shiny plaques on the wall celebrating sponsorships of sports teams stared back at us.

As a lifelong athlete, I’ve always understood what strong community support meant to sports teams. I quickly discovered the arts kids have a tougher go of it.

But undeterred, we have some amazing success tales to share, as 2022 will forever be known to us as “the summer of yes.” Not in chronological order:

Brevard Cultural Alliance

Thank you, Lynne Brezina, Brevard Cultural Alliance (BCA) services manager, for championing Ella as an artist, not as just a 9-year-old. BCA welcomed Ella as its youngest ever member this summer. 

She has an artist member profile page, and after just one weekly newsletter, we learned more about all the artists, exhibits and classes throughout Brevard than in my 22 years living here. We love keeping up with the different galleries’ themed exhibits and have gone to support some of Ella’s people. Can’t wait to meet more.

Art in Public Places

Again, thanks to Lynne’s leadership, Ella became the youngest artist to ever have her work juried and approved by the Art in Public Places committee. Six of her original pastel drawings are now on display (and for sale) through November on the third floor of Building C at the government center in Viera.

It was an incredible thrill to have the elevator doors open and see her work on the wall. A true honor. The program places about 500 works of art from about 300 local artists across 30 locations at any given time. The four-month rotations help give artists exposure while dressing up walls at the hospital, airport, car dealerships, and government and office buildings.

Thank you to Ella’s art teacher, international-selling portrait artist Debi Pettigrew, for giving us a workshop on how to gallery wrap. We now are schooled in the ways of preparing art for public display.

First Art Gallery

Thank you to Egle Bredikis, who happened to be working the day Ella and I wandered into Eau Gallery in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne. We took samples of Ella’s art notecards to ask if any galleries support child artists.

Instead of sending us off, Egle welcomed Ella to display her cards. We attended our first First Friday Art Walk and loved mingling with the gallery’s showing artists and community art lovers. At the end of the month, Ella was quite thrilled to receive her first check from sales at the gallery.  

Thank you for thinking outside the frame and saying yes.

First Retail Partnership

About the same time, Leslie Thomas welcomed Ella to enter into her first retail partnership. Ella’s custom Ella Bella Beads jewelry and some original art bookmarks are available at The Seaside Succulent in Cocoa Village.

That Ella was welcomed into the shop, her creations alongside those of several other talented female artisans, gave her a beautifully grown-up feeling. 

Thank you for giving Ella space on your counter and saying yes.

Chamber Guest of Honor

Thank you, EverythingBrevard CEO and Publisher Tracy Stroderd and Nancy Peltonen, President/CEO of The Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce, for welcoming Ella as your pint-sized guest of honor at the recent quarterly ladies luncheon. 

She moved the capacity crowd to laugh out loud and later wipe away tears. Everyone was encouraging and supportive through words and art purchases.

Thank you for lifting the little girl up onto that stool and giving her a microphone.

Color Your World Art Camp

Rounding out Ella’s summer art experience was spending time with her peers at the Color Your World art camp hosted by Derek Gores.

It was a treat for Derek to share his artist perspective with area youth, especially as the special guest during collage week. If you didn’t already know, Derek is a master at creating collage art.

“Art is for everyone. When kids can create a world on a piece of paper or canvas, they can make the leap to shaping, coloring and creating their own real world, as well,” Derek said. 

In its second year, Derek said the camp is “proudly carrying on the tradition of quality summer art camp started by the Brevard Art Museum, later the Foosaner. I attended as a kid and have never forgotten.”

Thank you, Derek, Ella’s main art camp teacher, Kasey Klein, and all the other teachers who worked with the kids who ranged from early elementary age to teens, for being mentors to the next generation of artists.

“You always want to encourage artists to continue to learn,” said Lynne, who’s worked with BCA for 27 years.

And when I asked her about working with my 9-year-old:

“I consider this so exciting to be able to work with Ella,” she said. “I’ve never actually come in contact with a child that has a passion for so many aspects of the arts, so it’s really a pleasure for me to promote her and work with her and for her to work with me.”

Much of this would not be possible were it not for all of your “YES”es!



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