For Art’s Sake
Joseph Bardani Art Studio in Southport houses working studios for 13 artists and also serves as a gallery.
Once in a while the stars align, and life gives us a very improbable coincidence. That is what happened to Joseph Bardani and how his new artists’ studio and gallery in Southport came into being.
Bardani has been an art instructor at Brunswick Community College (BCC) in Southport for the last four years, and he also has several private students in the area. Until recently he lived in Little River and had his studio in his home. Each day he would commute about an hour to Southport, and that became tiresome, not to mention expensive. So, one cold January morning he began thinking about moving to Southport and relocating his studio. But where? And how?
The perfectly timed answer came the following day when he stopped into Southport Gallery at 701 #3 N. Howe Street to visit his friend, Steven Sagri, the owner of the gallery. Sagri told Bardani he would be vacating that location in August. It took Bardani a nanosecond to realize that this space would be perfect for his new studio. The lighting was just right, the room space was just right, and the location was perfect. But how was he going to afford it?
That is when it struck him that he could turn this building into a studio and gallery for resident artists. There would be enough space to accommodate eight artists. What he couldn’t have anticipated is how quickly and enthusiastically eight of his students at BCC signed on. On August 15, 2021, just seven months after that serendipitous encounter between Bardani and Sagri, Joseph Bardani Art Studio became a reality.
As of now, 12 artists plus Bardani have their own space. Since there is only room for eight, four of the spaces are shared, and those artists split the time they work there. There is still room for their resident dog and mascot, Rubble. Each artist has his or her own key and can come in whenever they so desire. As an additional bonus, they get their name painted on the front window in large white letters. The artists come often because they all love it. They love the camaraderie, the interaction, the chance to learn from each other and the inspiration they get from one another.
And there is more. In addition to paying a monthly rent, for a few dollars more, the artists get two private lessons each month, or one lesson each if they are sharing the space. Bardani is primarily an impressionist and abstract painter and works in oils; however, he is qualified to teach whatever the students are interested in learning. Or, more appropriately, whatever next steps he feels they should take in their journey to become a better artist. His goal is to see his students improve their work by trying new approaches and applying new techniques. With the newer students, he often demonstrates his point by painting on their canvas. With the more advanced students, he simply offers suggestions about composition, coloring and how using a different technique, like glazing, would enhance the painting.
Bardani’s concept is that this is a working studio. His only requirement is that the artists are serious about their work. They have to want to get better, understand the complexities of art and appreciate its history. That has to be what drives them. They hang their finished work on the walls above their designated space with the title of the piece and the price, and their paintings are for sale, but selling their work is secondary. The primary goal is to simply improve and develop new skills.
Bardani also helps his students finish off a painting and suggests how to frame it to make it show the best. He encourages all of his students to recognize the value of their work and price their paintings accordingly. Several of them are thrilled to have sold their work for the first time. Others have been selling for a long time, but under his tutelage are now getting more money for their work.
The resident artists share in the decision making. They have monthly business meetings. At the most recent one, they decided to put up a website, and two of them have volunteered to take on the task of constructing and maintaining it. As Bardani told them, “I have my website; this one will be yours.”
So why do the artists pay for this space when they have all been painting for years and have a place to paint at home?
Donna Ferrandino says, “There are always advantages to painting in a group. Inspiration, knowledge, critiques and good conversation from other artists. I love doing abstract expressionism and impressionism, and Joseph is the master of both. He’s shown me how to use cold wax medium with my oils and how to combine abstract and impressionist techniques in a single painting. He usually helps me when I am pretty far along with a painting and it needs a pop of color, or some oomph or something is obviously not working.” She took his suggestion to add circles and introduce some black in one of her abstracts, both of which greatly enhanced her finished painting. “His suggestions are always on target,” she says.
Nancy Adelis says, “It is really nice to have some camaraderie. I am learning techniques that would be considered very basic, like value differentiation, perspective, shading, blending, glazing, etc.” Adelis had never used a palette knife before, and she has found that to be a wonderful technique to give her paintings a very eye-catching, three-dimensional look. “Oh, and I get my name on the door,” she jokingly adds.
Donna Kanich says she likes to have other people be there because “you can learn from them. And also my husband is at home.” She admits that her painting of five pelicans was definitely better after she followed Bardani’s suggestion to put in part of a sixth one and have it walking out of the scene.
Christie Jacks says this is a new experience for her. She is enjoying it because “Joseph has a wealth of knowledge about all kinds of art medium and techniques.” She credits him for her getting better prices for her work.
Barbara White sometimes uses a photograph to copy from. Bardani is trying to ween her off of that practice and learn to paint from within, from the heart. He explains, “Painting is best when you don’t think about what you are painting; you simply let it flow until the shape begins to form.”
Whatever way he describes the painting process, it certainly works for him.
He sells eight to 10 paintings a year, all in the $2,000 to $9,000 range. And he has exclusive rights to exhibit his work at Landmark Sotheby’s in both Southport and Ocean Isle Beach.
Bardani emphasizes that Joseph Bardani Art Studio is a working studio first and foremost, but also a gallery. His intent is to have passersby stop in and chat with whomever is there. He tells his artists, “If you don’t want to talk with visitors, this isn’t the right place for you.”
The next time you are in Southport, you might want to wander into Joseph Bardani Art Studio at 701 #3 N. Howe Street to meet the local resident artists and watch them at work. And you just might find a painting you would like to buy as well.