Making art star in decor: 5 questions for the Naples Art & Design Expo

Harriet Howard Heithaus
Naples Daily News
Artist Leigh Herndon watches as student christin Pryor unrolls a botanical transfer shibori panel; Herndon offers classes, with information on her website,

Your home probably falls into one of these categories:

  • You have the poster you bought in Russia when it was still the Soviet Union hanging over your couch. It's a little faded, but works.
  • You have a gallery wall piece selected by your designer that goes with the couch. Or that came with the condo when you bought it. Nice. 
  • You're a collector and, if you have to re-carpet your living room to go with that new masterpiece you just bought, so be it, gladly. "POW!"-ness rules. 

The Naples Art District worries that too many of us fall into the first two categories, and they're offering help in thinking "POW!" for our forlorn walls — with some strong designers as well. The District is sponsoring its third 2022 Art & Design Expo next weekend, Jan. 27-29, to bring homeowners, designers and artists together.

If the fact that it's the third startles people, that's because the first one was scheduled for March 2020.

"Three days after everything had to be shut down," said Paula Brody, president of the district's board. It was cancelled; last year, the lingering pandemic also abbreviated and reduced the Expo. This year, with social distancing and masks, the organization is hoping to make it work. 

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An open house 5-7 p.m. Thursday night is a warmup for the weekend, offering visitors a chance to stroll among the participating artists' studios and see local original art. The district has been in a growth spurt, with 91 artists now working in the area bounded by J&C Boulevard, Taylor Street, Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads and those who are  open for the event will have banners to alert visitors.

The next two days, artists and designers team up at designated studios. The designer, who has selected a painting, introduces a palette of colors and textures that work with it. The artist talks about the painting, the technique used and what inspired it. Five workshops on Friday and six on Saturday take on specific themes: working with modern furnishings, with natural wood and stone pieces, with harmonizing spaces within a room or a home, with getting frisky with color and more. 

Throughout the weekend, owners of the design material businesses may also be participating, offering visitors the chance to browse among stone, custom cabinetry, bath outfitting and even the furnishings at the wholesale International Design Source galleries. 

Those who come to the open house Thursday night, Jan. 27, will also learn they can create their own art. A number of the artists offer classes and visitors can see the results. This past week, a student at artist Leigh Herndon' s workshop on botanical transfer shibori was unrolling her own potential wall hanging, printed indelibly with Naples flowers, leaves and pine needles. 

The yellow bloom painting of Donna Hope, left, gets suggested decor complements from Candice Kelber in the 2021 expo.

Naples Art District is requesting reservations so its workshops can socially distance the seating, but can accommodate some walk-ins. Those can be made on the website by clicking on the date to find the Sign Up link:

The workshops and open house are free.

Brody, who is both an artist and an art consultant for home design, answered questions about the Art & Design Expo and the advantages of original art: 

Naples Daily News: What's the mission of the Art & Design Expo?

Paula Brody: Even for the decorators we're working with, the challenge for them is to have a piece of art be a focal point of their design. Art is not necessarily part of the consideration (in home decor) — it's the last thing. And by then sometimes the interior design budget has been exhausted on the material for the draperies and the bedspreads. 

You have a much more important relationship to the art in your home than you do the draperies. I mean, I've seen some beautiful draperies, but ...

NDN: What are some of the advantages of local original art that people don't see immediately?

P.B. When I go into a home, I like to ask what the artwork that is there means to them and how they acquired it. ... There's often meaning to that.

Also, often, measuring for the work makes a difference. Often people have really big walls. We're also able to help them to find artwork to scale for those spaces.

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Buying a piece of original piece of artwork for your home is very different from buying a reproduction, in a number of ways.  ... In the case of getting it in the art district, you get to meet the artist. Two people who came in wanted me to explain the process in the piece of art they just took out. They were able to meet me and talk about what I do to create it.

NDN: There are spots were I really do want art, but I don't want it totally clashing with a significant feature in the room, either. Is that not possible with original art?

P.B.:  There are definitely some artists who are happy to do a piece of work that is designed around a color palette, giving the artists some leeway to interpret and be able to create from your inner artist. Some of us are very happy to do that as it relates to design.

NDN: Is light a consideration people need to take into account when they are looking for art for their home?

P.B.: That's a great question, particularly here in Florida when there's so much beautiful natural sunlight that in many cases you don't have to light the work the way you may have to up North.

Acrylics are not going to fade in the sun. Also, another great reason to buy original art, in many cases, is that you're buying a print, it's got to go under glass. And glass is very reflective. 

Interior designer Bebe Booskos, left, and artist Tammra Sigler put together one of Sigler's works with prints, fabrics and accessory furniture that worked well together for Art & Design Expo 2021.

NDN: What inspired the idea to organize the Art & Design Expo?

P.B.: If you can remember that strategic art plan for the county, part of what the consultants encouraged the art organizations to do was crossover collaboration. I was on the task force for it, and that really rang a bell with me, to reach out to other disciplines. I really took that to heart. That was why I reached out to the designers to have this collaboration between art and interior design.

In 2020 I also reached out to Naples Originals. Our artists were all set to paint in various restaurants around the area — palate to palette. We had to cancel that, and we've been a little hesitant to reschedule that in terms of the inside of restaurants.

That is the same motivation that prompted me to reach out to the floral designers in our "Artful Arrangements" (coming Feb. 22-24) and cross over between our two disciplines. Interior design is an art to itself, and so is floral design. We're very excited about that.

Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/ Reach her at 239-213-6091.

Who: Artists of the Naples Art District, along with designers the to-trade Inernational Design Gallery

When: 5-7 p.m. open house Thursday, Jan. 27; 10 a.m.-5 pm. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28-29; artists' studios will be open while the workshops are going on

Where: Naples Art District; interactive maps are on its website at

Information: On the website or call 239-249-1977