Local Wildlife Artists Geoffrey Smith And Guy Coheleach To Discuss Friendship At The Arts Council’s Cultural Conversations Series
His wildlife sculptures adorn the Treasure Coast, beautify venues around the country and enjoy a vaulted spot in the Vatican.
Now, acclaimed artist and Stuart resident Geoffrey Smith is revealing another facet of his artistic talent—painting. And he honed his newfound skill with the help of Guy Coheleach, another renowned wildlife artist who calls Stuart home.
“Both of them have a major passion for wildlife and our environment, but they’re working in different mediums, mentoring each other in their crafts,” Nancy Turrell, executive director of The Arts Council of Martin County, says. “I just thought that was a fascinating story.”
For $15 a ticket, the public can learn more about how these two iconic artists teach each other on March 22, during The Arts Council’s Cultural Conversations. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. and is being held at the Court House Cultural Center.
The discussion, led by Nerissa Okiye of the Martin County Office of Tourism, will explore the artists’ backgrounds, accomplishments and how their friendship enriches their ongoing creative exchange.
“I’ve painted with [Smith] and I’ve told him what I know,” Coheleach says, “But he’s off on his own and he’s already selling his artwork, which is more than I can say about my sculpture. But that’s because I’m an old dinosaur and I can’t learn new tricks.”
Despite his self-deprecating wit, Coheleach’s artistic talent pursuing and painting wildlife on safaris and other field adventures garnered exhibits in the White House, Carnegie Museum and China, inspired two PBS films and earned him the prestigious Master Artist Medal—then awarded to only nine artists, living or dead.
“I regret that I didn’t meet Guy 20 years ago,” Smith says. “We were both down here and our paths never crossed. He’s been on lots of great adventures. He’s a master. To learn some of his wisdom has been fabulous.”
As a complement to his public-art sculptures, which include the 19-foot-tall Stuart Sailfish Monument Fountain and the “Water Birds” series around downtown Stuart, the public can claim one of Smith’s paintings. He recently painted an alligator on the AT&T building in Stuart as part of the mural created by Lynne Barletta and students of the Visionary School of Arts to help victims of human trafficking.
All of Smith’s sculptures—which also include Rising Above, the lotus that made international news when chosen by President Trump for a gift to Pope Francis, and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s Neil Armstrong™ Award of Excellence—are cast in bronze using the ancient lost-wax method. During sculpting lessons with Coheleach, Smith deconstructs the preparation process.
“Building the armature, the steps you go through, I’ll show [Coheleach] something and his eyes light up,” Smith says. “He’s like, ‘Oh my God, I love this.’ I get more out of teaching him. It’s been very rewarding to show him sculpture.”
Patrons of the Cultural Conversation will no doubt find the exchange rewarding, Okiye says.
“I’m looking forward to learning more about their inspiration,” she says. “That they’ve both chosen to make Martin County their home is quite spectacular. It speaks to the beauty and inspiration of our community that two world-renowned artists live here.”
Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Smith Studio