Photography by Lindsey Potter
Christopher Carnes experienced the allure of art at a young age. As a kindergartener at Bessey Creek Elementary, the then-5-year-old saw a display of paintings at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, met the artist and learned she ran the Visionary School of Arts.
I wanted to try something new, and I thought maybe I should try art,” Carnes remembers. “I started lessons and never stopped.”
Now a 15-year-old sophomore at South Fork High School, his brushstrokes have blossomed in a multitude of mediums including acrylic, oil and pastel. Eleven of his creations recently hung at the Osceola Street Café. He has won awards from Audubon of Martin County, the Martin County Fair, and the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Home, Garden & Orchid Show.
“Over the years, you could tell that I just got better and better and better,” he says. “The main thing I like about art is the creativity you get to put in it.”
By combining his artistic talent with his environmental passion—he serves as president of Students4H20, promoting its Plastic Bag Initiative and organizing its annual Water Fest event—he has turned painting into a platform. A piece titled “Affected” portrays a sea turtle in an underwater reef scene that, when ultraviolet light is shined on it, exposes the animal’s plastic-filled skeleton.
“It wasn’t being discussed a lot, and I wanted to help engage in that conversation,” he says of the 12-inch-by-24-inch acrylic he painted two years ago. “Really seeing a visual like that, especially for the kids, it helps bring them more understanding—more than reading an article.”
“I want the paintings so that I can personally have them and use them at events,” Carnes says. “I like to say what I’m doing in the community definitely needs more awareness.”
Lynne Barletta, the founder and executive director of the Visionary School of Arts—whom Christopher met a decade ago—says he is one of its success stories.
“Over the years, Christopher has donated many hours of volunteer service to teach small children fine art in classes and camps,” Barletta says. “He is involved in his church, and he also teaches children’s chimes,
Sunday school and helps to run the Vacation Bible School. He is
pretty well rounded.”
Why is clean water at the forefront of your causes?
This is the forefront of my causes because clean water is the base for everything in a community. Once you have clean water in the community, it leads to a healthy community, an opportunity for education and building up an impactful government.
How did you select which paintings to hang in the Osceola Street Café?
What do you like about where you live?
I love Martin County because of the true community feel of this town. Everyone knows each other, and there is a strong supportive group that cares about our environment and the waterways we are blessed with.