From Catholic student to mentoring with a sculptor creating life-sized nudes, Jean O’Neil is no stranger taking risks.
That’s how she became the owner of the Lemon Bay Clay Studio in Englewood, she says. O’Neil took ownership of the studio to promote a healthy way of co-existing with both life and art.
“Risk-taking is an essential component of being an artist, whether you are performing or visual,” she said. “It is that willingness to risk that opens the door to a new technique, collaboration, or exhibition.”
O’Neil grew up in small Pittstown, New York, where “the name says it all,” she said. She was educated at the town’s Catholic school.
O’Neil craved the freedom of adventure. She met sculptor Jack Marshall at a clay college in New Hampshire, and became his studio assistant.
“I had never seen anything like Jack or his life-sized clay nudes. It was like landing on a new planet for me,” O’Neil states.
The job required immense physical labor but initiated her love for clay.
Years later, while working at the Albright School of Education at City University of Seattle, she was contacted by Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota about taking the position of executive director of the Englewood Art Center. The college and the art center had recently begun their affiliation.
She deterred the offer as bad timing, but life would still bring her to the Englewood art scene.
After her exhibit in the Sedona Community Art Gallery, O’Neil and her husband decided to relocate. Because of Englewood’s established Community Redevelopment Area, the pair decided to renovate a house in Olde Englewood Village. The plan was to retire.
However, she soon met Open Studio manager Mary Weber, who gave O’Neil the opportunity to rent a space within the Clay Studio. Not long after, Weber retired, offering the workshop to O’Neil.
Today, O’Neil takes pride in inspiring artists of all kinds to put the arts at the same priority level as anything, believing creativity is the key to your body’s own flourishing.
Each part of the Open Studio’s string of small businesses is devoted to the practice of mind and body healing. The Food Forest, a peaceful garden behind the studio, is home to the food sold at the HomeGrown market next door.
O’Neil credits owner and founder of the Open Studio, Evelyn Dow, for the successful transition of the campus becoming a place where the businesses owners would support each other.
O’Neil felt this was the right place to share ingenuity with such an invested group of people. Pottery, painting, jewelry making, ladies’ nights, and more classes or memberships are available for signup at www.lemonbayclaycenter.com.
“Though my retirement only lasted 48 hours, I was able to land in a community of my tribe where a vain of creative, inspirational energy radiates,” says O’Neil.