Local News

Sebring High students to 'care mob' 'Art Village,' now under renovation

SEBRING - In April, several Sebring High School International Baccalaureate Programme students "cash-mobbed" a downtown Sebring deli.

They used social media to invite their friends and family to eat there that day, learning through their experience not just how Twitter and Facebook helps in marketing, but also to reward businesses that donate generously to the school.

This Saturday, the students are it again but with a slight twist.

They will be "care mobbing" Highlands Art League, the four-building complex on Sebring's Lake Jackson, which draws artists and art students, and also includes a museum of art.

Around 100 Sebring High students will spend the day cleaning, painting and landscaping the Art Village, which is located across from the Sebring Public Library.

Right now, the art complex is undergoing a big facelift, which when finished, will give the village a different look but also put into use one of its long-vacant buildings, the Green House or the Clovelly House, said art league marketing coordinator Casey Wohl.

JoAnna Cochlin, IB coordinator, said helping the more than 75 IB students Saturday will be others from the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society students, about 100 in total.

While the Mae Lee Deli cash mob brought customers to the eatery and got the cash registers jingling, - hence the moniker - Saturday's gig is more about community service.

IB students are required to do community service projects, which they typically plan individually. Cochlin thought a group project might be a good idea and needed a place big enough to fit 100 students, who could make an "immediate impact."

She got in touch with Wohl, and that's how the day-long care mob was born.

While students will be putting in "sweat equity" from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m., they also want to use the occasion to highlight the importance of art and culture, Wohl said.

And the public is invited to help and even contribute toward the supplies.

Donations of paint, mulch, painting supplies (brushes, drop cloths, painter's tape, paint pans, rollers), and yard tools (rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, buckets) are needed.

Financial contributions to help buy the supplies are also being sought, Wohl added.

Marmer Construction, Edgewood Landscape, Scosta Supply/Porter Paints and Palmer Ace Hardware have donated new irrigation and preparatory labor, and some of the paint and mulch, Wohl said.

Cochlin said the Sebring Firemen's Inc. is making burgers but they need hamburger buns.

"If you want teens to show up, you have to feed them," she laughed.

Anyone interested in supporting the students can contact the art league at 863-385-5312, email Info@HighlandsArtLeague.org or drop off their donations at the art league, 1989 Lakeview Drive in Sebring, no later than noon Friday.

The completed four-building complex will be unveiled to the public at a grand-opening April 5, completing a 12-year journey that began in 2002 when the first restoration began.

A $50,000 grant from the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency in 2012 helped launch work on the interior of the Green House.

Once the work on the art complex's last building is complete in March, it will be used for student art exhibits, Wohl said.

The first event scheduled is the Highlands County Student Art Show, set from April 5-21, featuring art by high school students.

New board member Dawn Dell, who has now amassed 15 paintings of her own after her first sitting at an Art Uncorked class, said the Green House's availability now makes it possible to have more things for kids to do.

Dell, who laughingly shared how she has changed the color scheme in her house to accommodate her paintings, said the art league has something for every age and feels a new momentum is pushing forward not just the group but also art and culture in downtown Sebring.

"The community is starting to embrace the whole art thing," she said.

Since January, art classes have been expanded to include Mommy & Me classes for toddlers, Art Uncorked Watercolor sessions in March and story time painting for kids ages 6-12. Casey and Merideth Wohl are also working on music classes, culinary art classes, photography classes, as well as painting for kids.

The old perception that art is only for the wealthy is changing, Dell said.

"People need to come check it (art league) out," she added. "With schools cutting back on art and music, the community has to step up."

The Art Village's buildings in use are the Visual Arts Complex, also called the Orange House, which is used for art classes while the Yellow House Gallery and Gift Shop houses five artists' studios.

The Highlands Museum of the Arts (MoTA) also has a full exhibit schedule for 2014, Wohl said.

A Citrus Label Art exhibit runs March 6 to May 31, followed by a local photography exhibit in the summer. The Ringling College of Art and Design will be hosting an exhibit in the fall.

Historical society archivist Carole Goad marveled at how far the Art Village has grown.

Twenty years ago the buildings were in a state of disrepair and were going to be demolished, she said.

"It's just beautiful. There's constantly a beehive of activity that goes on," said Goad, whose office is at the back of the Sebring Public Library.

When the Green House re-opens, it also will be bringing back some of Sebring's history.

The worldwide general of the Salvation Army, Edward Higgins, used to live there, Goad said.

Higgins' grand-daughter, Joan Higgins Hartt, was also active in making the use of the Green House possible.