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ArtCenter Manatee’s Exec Director Carla Nierman: On Creativity. Summer Classes. And Growth.

ArtCenter Manatee’s Exec Director Carla Nierman: On Creativity. Summer Classes. And Growth.

| Sande Caplin |

A little pudgy-cheeked girl in the gallery once looked up at Carla Nierman, Executive Director of ArtCenter Manatee, and said, “You sparkle.”

Carla checked a mirror to see if she was covered with glitter (a common occurrence working around an art center). No. It was the little girl’s heart-felt observation of Carla’s persona, out of the mouths of babes. Carla didn’t want me to share this, being the humble person she is. But it describes her well.

As she showed me around the galleries at the art center, that day filled with Youth Art exhibits –  “fun”– a word she uses frequently – and excitement seemed to seep from her pores.“Look at this one! And can you believe this?!” Carla exclaimed at the amazing youth art work on the walls. She pointed to a pencil drawing – a self portrait of a teenage boy with tears rolling down his face. “You see how it draws out the emotions that might not otherwise be expressed?”

ArtCenter Manatee’s Exec Director Carla Nierman

Carla, who says she’s “dabbled in most every medium of art,” has served a number of posts at the Center over the decade-plus of working there, prior to her current position as Executive Director, which makes her quite an impressive combination of experience and talent.

She grew up in a family of “five creatives,” she said of her siblings, as we were discussing the nature vs. nurture ideology as it relates to creativity. “My first memory was the smell of turpentine and paint” Carla said describing her mother as a lifelong painter.  On Carla’s office wall is a young child’s colored drawing matted and framed, and she says she bought it because it makes her happy.

“It’s an occupational hazard,” Carla joked, talking about the hoards of paintings, ceramics and art pieces she has purchased at the Center throughout the years, down to the earrings and bracelets she was wearing.

“One of my favorite tasks here is watching people grow as creatives…that just jazzes me,” Carla said. In addition to watching people grow from novice to noted artist, she seemed happy about ArtCenter Manatee’s growth, as she looked at her milestones list and discussed summer programs and future plans.

What I learned today was that ArtCenter Manatee is investing in each and every artist in our community. “They succeed. We succeed,” Carla says. You don’t have to be a member (but your commission will be more if you are) to be selected for the Artists’s Market or an exhibition Carla said. To sweeten the pie, in the works is an Artist’s Market website, which will feature local artists’ pieces and give them that extra boost of internet presence and world-wide exposure.

“Bradenton has grown a lot in its community art presence,” Carla said. Community leaders are very supportive of artistic and cultural endeavors.”

Art Gallery Bradenton, Florida

Summer Happenings at ArtCenter Manatee
I was happy to see that the Center’s summer offerings were as plentiful as the Fall/Winter program. New instructors have come on board, including James Griffin teaching oil painting; Lucy Barber teaching portrait drawing, and Marcia Wisehoon teaching wire wrap jewelry. There’s even a Yoga in the Gallery class on Tuesday evenings which Carla says, “is so much fun, laying upside down and looking at art.”

This adds to the roster of dozens of veteran artist instructors like John Hynal, photography instructor, who gets rave reviews Carla said, and Gracielia Giles teaching watercolors for the beginner. Special interest classes like basket weaving and creating vision boards, plus a variety of drawing, painting, watercolor, sculpture, pottery, and jewelry classes are led by local instructors inviting people of all skill levels to enjoy a summer of creating.

More Fun
Night’s Out, open gallery tours and special events are all part of ArtCenter Manatee’s extra offerings that generate revenue and welcome folks who may not consider themselves the “artistic type.”

People, organizations and corporations can book galleries or the entire center for their special events and so many newcomers enjoy the space that they are booking their own parties Carla said. It’s a growing revenue stream for the center and an innovative one because the space is very adaptable and lovely.

As the trend of two-hour paint or pottery nights continue in mass population popularity, the center features a number of Night’s Out that feature painting on glass or fabric, watercolor, making jewelry and more. For only $35, enjoy creating a piece to take home and complimentary wine, beer and appetizers. It’s a great way to meet people and party with friends.

 It’s true what Carla says. “When you do art you feel better…science is proving it.” Not only is it meditative but there’s a social aspect, Carla pointed out, that happens at the classes. You meet others. Share something in common. Learn together. Support one another. “You feel the love,” Carla said.

Artists in Bradenton, Florida

KidsArt Summer Camp
Emerging little artists will be thrilled with the endless possibilities of creating everything from fabric to clay, comics to photos. Classes are grouped by age and invite children ages four to 15 to join in the summer fun starting the first week of June.

Make yourself feel better. Just even visit the center and I’ll bet you walk away inspired. Not to mention all of the cool things you can BUY at The Artists Market! Sign yourself up for a summer class. Definitely sign your children or grandchildren up for Camp. Bring your friends to a Night Out. Volunteer. Or if you’re already an artist – teach and learn more.

Carla and I talked much longer about the far reaching benefits of art to an individual and a community…but we’ll save that for our book (inside joke). “I need to be stimulated,” Carla said, “and growing and striving to be a better human being.”

DON’T WAIT to register. There are more people than spots for summer classes which have already begun but feature June, July and August sessions. Go to to register; stop in for a summer program magazine at 208 9th Street W., Bradenton; or call 941-746-2862 for more information.

Photos by Patti Pearson

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