By EMILY SISELL
USFSP Student Reporter
GULFPORT – She grew up in New York, went to college and graduate school there and then spent a decade as a broadcast journalist there.
So how did Brenda McMahon end up as a ceramic artist in Gulfport and a driving force in the little city’s arts community?
It’s a long story.
When she was 30, McMahon, 55, took a pottery class on a whim to help get through an upstate New York winter. “I fell in love with it that night and the love affair was ‘fast and furious,’” she said.
Her introduction to Gulfport was serendipitous.
She was staying at a Clearwater hostel while attending an art show when she went for a drive, got lost and found herself in Gulfport.
“I had no idea where I was, but I thought to myself I could totally live here,” said McMahon. “It’s a magical little community.”
Before finding Gulfport, she never saw herself living in Florida long term. But after just one year in the city, she bought a home there.
McMahon has been a full-time ceramic artist for 25 years.
She has done wall murals in lots of homes and almost a dozen hospitals, including Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in Houston and the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
She has taught classes around the country for 20 years and internationally for seven.
At her Brenda McMahon Gallery, other artists of her choice display their work alongside her own for a couple of months at a time. There are 20 other artists there now.
She creates custom ceramic wall art for residential and commercial clients in her studio about a half of a mile from her gallery at 2901 Beach Blvd. S, Suite 104.
Living in Gulfport for the past 12 years, she finds herself balancing many tasks – creating art, running the office, curating shows, working on designs, conversing with clients and making custom pieces.
She works alongside her companion, Ty, a 5-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback boxer mix. Her “Buddha boy” has welcomed every guest into the gallery since it opened seven months ago.
“I’m never bored with having the capacity to express myself in many ways and I love presenting in a diverse field,” said McMahon.
Three years ago, she founded the Art Jones studio tour and art sale to help connect the Gulfport community to its local artists.
Art Jones isn’t a person; the name plays with the idea that you’re “jonesing” or craving something – in this case, art.
“We jones to create and welcome you to satisfy your Art Jones to collect,” said McMahon.
This tour is a free, self-guided tour that showcases the work of 20 artists at 19 locations.
“It really connects people with the creative process and the dedication we all have to our craft,” said McMahon.