From a wood shop to a stone sculpting studio, Longboat Harbour gives its residents places to come together and create art.
Tucked inside Longboat Harbour is what some residents call “the best-kept secret.”
It’s a place for creative outlet that few complexes offer.
Inside the grounds of Longboat Harbour, there is a woodshop and art studio open to all residents.
The art studio houses spaces for wood carving, painting and stone sculpting, but it also houses a spot for neighbors to come together.
Donna Birnbaum, who oversees the art studio, had been creating her artwork at the Longboat Key Arts Center when she learned about Longboat Harbour’s hidden spot. At the time, Birnbaum was renting on the island but was looking for a more permanent spot. When she heard about Longboat Harbour’s art studio, she knew she had found her home.
“I think all art forms are a wonderful form of expression as well as writing and music, and you lose yourself in it,” Birnbaum said.
Birnbaum has been creating art for 50 years. She started out in oil painting, watercolor and charcoal. She got into sculpting in the 1970s, and now she creates sculptures just steps from home.
The environment of the art, wood and stone studio is simple according to Birnbaum.
“It’s just a bunch of people that like to do art and get together,” she said.
And the people who use the art studio become each other’s supporters and critics.
“When you’re into art, to say you have to learn how to sculpt is kind of a misunderstanding because you have to get to learn the tools and see what the materials do, so even if you’re painting, you can’t teach somebody how to make a brush stroke,” she said. “They have to do that on their own and learn, but we critique each other and help each other out.”
On another side of the art studio is a room for wood carving.
Jim Vinci started wood carving in 2003. He lives on a lake in Wisconsin for part of the year, and a neighbor there asked him to go to a wood-carving shop. He’s found that the studio offers almost everything a beginning woodcarver would need.
Vinci estimates he’s made 300 pieces in the last 15 years. He makes various items ranging from letter openers to duck heads made out of golf clubs.
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with basic wood carving, especially retired people who are looking for something else to do,” he said.
But the studio helps bridge that gap. Vinci said he’s shown some neighbors how to create.
“It’s unbelievable what you can do if you take your time,” he said.
And for those looking to work on bigger wood projects, such as picnic tables or shelves, Longboat Harbour also houses a woodshop on the lowest level of its leasing office space.
John Shea organizes the schedule and tools of the wood shop. Recently, Shea and a few other residents banded together to make and replace all the picnic tables around the property. They also renovated some of the fishing piers and made chairs for each.
Shea said residents are welcome to bring their own tools to the wood shop, but it’s well-supplied for those who don’t have their own equipment.
“The quality of the machinery there is good, and it’s a good addition to the community here because of the availability of things that you normally wouldn’t have in your condo or anything like that,” Shea said. “It’s air conditioned. It’s a comfortable place to work.”
No matter the tool or trade, the studios offer a convenient spot for both working and socializing.
“This happens to be a very, very friendly group,” Birnbaum said. “Maybe it’s because we’re all neighbors.”