Monday, December 24, 2012

Feeling sporty for your age? Senior Games may be for you

Feeling lucky and over 50? Maybe the Senior Games are for you. (Herald file photo)
Over 50 and feeling your oats? Well there are lot of Baby Boomers who are.

You may have vaguely heard of something called the Gulf Coast Senior Games. The series of athletic competitions have been around for 24 years in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

One of the perks of reaching 50 is that you are finally grown up enough to enter the Senior Games.

The next games are set for Feb. 19 - 24, 2013, and registration has begun.

The local games are one of 19 regional qualifying events across Florida for the statewide games which will be held next December in Polk County. The top five finishers in each event will advance.

Here are the events: golf, archery, shuffleboard , basketball, bocce, bowling, cribbage, cycling, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, racquetball, a 5K road race, swimming, table tennis, tennis and track & field.

Someone just asked, is there an eating competition? No sorry, I don't see that listed.

Registration fee is $12 and includes an event T-shirt. There is also a $3 fee for each event an athlete participates in.

Register by visiting, and clicking on Register Now. Registration must be completed by Feb. 1, 2013. There will be no registration on the day of events.

Are you thinking about it? I am. Maybe I'll see you out there.


Monday, December 10, 2012

One of the artists behind the incredible RiverWalk art is from rural East County

Shipping to Cuba by Jean Blackburn
If you have visited Bradenton's RiverWalk -- and many of us have, and greatly enjoyed it  -- you have seen Jean Blackburn's art work.

It is among "Postcards from the Friendly City," and one of them, "Shipping to Cuba," is shown here. It's a fantasy in the best sense that makes you smile, feel good, and remember the adventurous spirit of your childhood.

Members of the Palm-Aire Art Association got to know Jean a little better recently when they visited her studio in rural east Sarasota County.

Here's what Charleen Gorbet, a member of the association, wrote:

The trip was a whirlwind of sensory perception as Jean took us through the various techniques and media she has used over the years.

Many people have seen Jean’s work, perhaps without knowing it. Her vibrant monoprints led to a commission from Whole Foods to design tiles for the facade of their downtown Sarasota flagship store.

“But don’t look at them, they’ve faded,” she said. “Look inside, on the walls of the dining space at the front of the store…those are the original works.”

Bradenton’s newly-opened Riverwalk commissioned  four of Jean’s works to celebrate the theme “Postcards from the Friendly City.”

 Drawing on extensive research into the history of the Manatee River, Jean created whimsical scenes of early Bradenton life.  These are mounted along the boardwalk, together with four other works by artist Don Brandes.

 A work in progress in her studio illustrated the technique she uses to paint the moving water of the Myakka River near her home.

“These are not photoshopped,” she said emphatically, showing photos filled with vibrant blue, green and orange colors.

She takes thousands of high-speed photographs, watching for the right time and light to give those wonderful colors.

“I’ll even sit in a tree for an hour, waiting for the right slant of sun,” she laughed. Next comes the painstaking work of selecting from a photo one small corner of interesting movement and light, then transferring that in all its complexity to oil painting on a large birch panel. The result is an intriguing abstract that will change the way you look at moving water.

New work in recent years was inspired by children’s art. In this series, called “Growing Up,”she uses gesso and acrylics on birch panel to create a surface that is repeatedly sanded and etched with a wood-burning tool.  Child-like figures are surrounded by simple images that might be dreams, memories, or wishes. The resulting work has a naïf, almost ethereal appearance.

Jean’s website is being renovated, but her Water Series and other work can be seen at

Here's a Bradenton Herald story where Jean Blackburn worked with local students:

Jean Blackburn in her studio. (photo provided)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sports portrait sells for $7,500 to benefit cancer research

During Thanksgiving weekend, Tampa artist Kristin Ostermand handed ESPN basketball analyst and Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale an early Christmas gift.

It was a life-size, black and white acrylic painting of him and Jim Valvano together during the inaugural ESPY Awards in 1993, the night Valvano delivered his famous speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award.

Vitale, a well-known advocate for cancer research, decided to auction the painting to benefit and support the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. Vitale kept the original piece and Osterman created a copy.

Osterman created 'The Promise', recapturing Vitale hugging Valvano just before he takes the stage.

Vitale started the bid at $1,000. That was Nov. 27. On Wednesday, it sold for $7,500 to a person in Virginia.

Osterman included a letter with the painting. It reads:
When Jim Valvano's ESPY speech was delivered, I remember like it was yesterday. Laying on my parent’s bed watching with tears rolling down my cheeks, I knew I just witnessed a most beautiful piece of history that will not be forgotten, at least not by me. I was just a college kid who loved basketball and was sad to see a coach I admired suffering.

This piece is not a representation of the celebrity Jim Valvano or celebrity Dick Vitale. It is the celebration of friendship and brotherhood. Behind this one fleeting image captured is a story of two souls and a lifelong promise. The embrace they shared is a true reflection of the mutual respect they showed for each other, the joy they shared in their bond, and the pleasure they had in working together. One can see unspoken compassion depicted, evident through body language and expressed through their embrace.

Dick Vitale had Jim Valvano's back He got Jimmy V and the person he was. Dick Vitale understood Jim Valvano's sense of humor... the love he had for his family, his love of a great Italian meal shared with friends, stories and laughter, and most importantly his zest for life. Jimmy V was one of a kind.

I chose to render the image in black and white to hold true to light and darkness … .Darkness which is imminent in the diagnosis of terminal cancer, but more importantly without darkness you cannot see light. The light that brings forth love. Our world was a little more fun when Jim Valvano was here. His soul was larger than life. He brought to us passion, meaning and purpose, through the sport of basketball. If he couldn't have another today, then he wanted EVERYONE to have a better tomorrow. That was Jim Valvano.

The raw emotion that holds true through the piece which is imminent on Dick Vitale’s face is how proud he was of Jim Valvano. Proud of what he was going through and how he was handling it and most importantly what he was about to say.

I believe he knew the opportunity he had in the speech he delivered the night of the ESPY’s. How those words would carry on as a life of their own. That is why I chose this image and this portion of the speech to depict in the art. The quote represents the gift he had on how to deliver a message. Those words ring true today...cancer could not break his spirit. His foundation continues to inspire us to be better people.

God does not make mistakes, Dick Vitale and Jim Valvano's friendship was created through divine purpose.

This piece was created in honor of a promise between friends. Dick Vitale promised he would carry on Jim Valvano's legacy through the Jimmy V Foundation. He loved his friend and knew there would not be another one like him. Some people may make a promise and hold true to the first few thousand dollars raised. However, would they actually go as far as to making it a life purpose? Dick Vitale is committed to the cause; clearly, Dick Vitale is a man of his word. Jim Valvano may be missed, but he has not left Dick Vitale in the quest to cure cancer. He has been right there, by his side, for every dollar raised and every life touched.

Written by Kristin Osterman- Portrait Artist

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Unusual offers this holiday season

We all look for deals, and especially during the holidays.

Here are a couple at Lakewood Ranch:

The good folks at Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, are offering a peaceful shopping day for parents 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.

The church, located off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard between S.R. 64 and S.R. 70,  will be providing care for kids in grades K-5.

Games, crafts, music and healthy snacks are planned to give parents time to shop or enjoy a peaceful afternoon.

The cost is $5 per child and the adult caregivers all have been background checked.

Information and reservations: 941-753-7778.

Now here is something a little unusual and free, to boot:

Taylor Morrison hosts free carriage rides to the public 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at  5235 Esplanade Blvd., Lakewood Ranch. Esplanade is located north of S.R.70.

Holiday music, drinks and snacks will be offered afterwards.

 For more information: 941-799-5496.

Monday, December 3, 2012

She's only 15, but Maria Wirries has got a set of pipes

Maria Wirries at Patriot Plaza groundbreaking. (Herald photo by Jim Jones)

Maria Wirries started turning heads in 2009, when she was only 11-years-old.

The Myakka City girl stood on a stage at Lakewood Ranch during the celebration of arts called "Ovation" and blew the doors off with her singing.

She's only gotten better with age.

Now all of 15, she sang the Star Spangled Banner and "God Bless the USA" today at the groundbreaking for Patriot Plaza, the covered amphitheater that will be built and gifted to Sarasota National Cemetery by the Patterson Foundation.

For more about Maria, read Richard Dymond's story.

For more about Patriot Plaza, see our story today.


Maria Wirries at Sarasota National Cemetery (Herald photo by Jim Jones)