Artists Have Found Common Ground

By Esther Hammer
The Tampa Tribune
November 30, 2006

Nationally known watercolorist Taylor Ikin for 12 years in the Sunset Park neighborhood, where there is a virtual artists' collective of talent. She is acquainted with the two photographers and four other painters in the area.

   SUNSET PARK - Amid the mix of simple and stylish homes in a section of this South Tampa neighborhood, seven accomplished artists live within paint-splatter distance of one another.
   Two are photographers, five paint in watercolors, oils or pastels.  Five live on a short span of Lamb Avenue, one around the corner on Keats Street and one on Emerson Street - close enough to shout encouragement from their back doors.
   With their pooled talents and proximity, they could form an artists' cooperative, except for one hiccup: Most don't know each other.
   So how did they all end up in the same neighborhood?
   "It's just lucky," said Taylor Ikin, who moved to Lamb Avenue 12 years ago, when it was still called Lamb.  She is the only artist who knows the other six.
   "That's because I walk my dog, and I'm a great believer in saying hello to people," she said.
   A nationally known watercolorist, Ikin's conservation series, "Hillsborough Collection," was shown in the Florida and national capitols in 2004-05.
   From the longest-to the shortest-tenured resident, here are the stories of the other artists:

Portraits Of An Artist
   Oil painter Mary Parrish, 76, and her husband, David, moved into their home on Lamb almost 50 years ago, right after they were married.
   "I don't think there were houses down the street then. It was all woods," Mary Parrish said.
   A longtime painter, she began taking it more seriously after she retired in 1996 after 16 years as a secretary.  An accomplished portrait artist, she usually ends up giving her paintings to her subjects.
   Parrish didn't realize there were so many artists nearby, other than her neighbors across the street.  Casimir "Caz" and Payne Harazda, and Ikin.  She recently painted a portrait of Caz Harazda and gave it to him.

Creative Couple
   Husband and wife artists Caz and Payne Harazda moved to Lamb about 40 years ago, mainly because her mother and brother lived in the neighborhood.
   Eventually, they met Parrish and Ikin, their near neighbors.  But they don't know the other artists in the area.
   Payne Harazda, 84, has painted, exhibited and sold her lively colored oil and pastel paintings for most of her adult life.  Her husband, 85, took up oil painting after he retired from the Air Force in 1967.  His paintings have the flavor of the Southwest, where the couple often travel.
   Both are award-winning artists and recently exhibited their work at the South Tampa office of U.S. Rep. Jim Davis.

'Dead Poets' Society'
   Photographer Robin Smillie has lived on Keats for 32 years, within view-finder range of the Harazdas.
   "This is the dead poets' society here," Smillie joked, referring to the neighborhood's street names.
   He self-published a fisherman's guide to Martin and St. Lucie counties in 1995 and has written about fishing for Florida Sportsman magazine, "but mostly I consider myself a photographer."
   His photography focuses on the international realm, specifically the tiny kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas just north of India.  He and his wife, Cathy, have led annual photographic tours there for the past six years.  The next is in April.
   Through his trips, he has met photographers from around the world, but the artists in his neighborhood remain unknown to him, except for Ikin.
   "I knew she was here because I'd see her walking her dog, and she'd stop and talk sometimes," he said.

An Introverted Bunch
   Debra Jo Radke, 52, and her husband, Richard, moved into their home on Emerson 17 years ago and are raising their children, Katie and Travis, there.
   Radke is a freelance photo stylist for businesses.  She also curates the shows at the TECO Public Art Gallery downtown and teaches art at the Life Enrichment Center in South Seminole Heights.  As an artist, she does landscape mixed-media and a lot of printmaking.
   Of her artist neighbors, she knows Ikin and recently learned that Robert Sanchez, with whom she and her husband have chatted over a glass of wine on their porch, is an accomplished photographer.
   "He would talk about taking photos, but I didn't realize he was showing in galleries until I saw one of his exhibits," she said.  Now she wants to include Sanchez in a photography show she's putting together for the TECO gallery.
   "I think most artists are introverts," she said.  "They're a little touchy about art.  That may be why it may take a little while for them to even broach the subject of their art with other people.
   "And that may explain their diffidence about meeting each other.  I guess we should talk a little more about what we do."

Exploring The Culture
   The newest kid on the block, Robert Sanchez, moved to Lamb eight years ago.
   "I had no idea there were so many artists nearby," said the lawyer and photographer, who has exhibited in New York and at the Tampa Museum of Art.
   "I've been a photographer longer than I've been a lawyer," he said.  "I was a painting major undergrad at the University of Florida.  I was an illustrator and art director at The Independent Florida Alligator."
   He started out taking surfing photos as a teenager.  These days, he's into documentary photographs and is working on a series of photos of fish camps and bait houses, preserving a piece of history.
   "Over the past 10 years, the escalating real estate prices have led to the purchase of waterfront property and these little houses are getting mowed over and replaced with condos," Sanchez said.
   He also has shot photos in Central Asia and in Afghanistan before 9/11.
   "I like to go to a place and explore the culture and the people through the photographs."

Correspondent Esther Hammer can be reached at (813) 835-2108 or

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