A Selection of Featured Artists & Friends

Meet an Artopian: Chiara Saldivar

artopia2015-bio-SaldivarChiara.jpgWhat is the best part about creating art?
We all have a bit of an artistic mind in some level. Whether it is cooking, carpentry, business, painting. The best part about creating to me, is to be in your own zone, connected to another world, with what is inside of you pouring it out. Since an early age I have been a crafter. I enjoy experimenting with my ideas, visions & thoughts through mediums, surfaces, shapes, colors. It is so fulfilling, it is infinite what you can do. Discovering each reaction, mixing the elements and creating from nothing to something powerful. I call it magic.

Tell us about growing up in Venezuela?
I was born and raised in Caracas, the capital. Caracas is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. The whole city is in a massive valley called “El Avila” also known as “the lung” of Caracas. The vegetation makes it misty in the morning and you can witness the most beautiful views from wherever you are standing. The contrast of the colonial and modern architecture are amusing, deep green plants everywhere. Busy. A very busy place, with so many typical things, foods, music, moments… even to ride the bus is a wild experience… so packed that sometimes you hang by the door holding from a pole to the outside of the bus while is riding, the drivers usually are blasting salsa music, you can see different saint images on the inside of the windshield and something really noticeable: even the sketchiest looking character will always stand up to give an older person their seat. That is awesome! Every time I go there I see it.

Venezuela is so rich in natural resources. It has all the different landscapes in a relatively small country, its people have funny sense of humor and they are great. Too bad I can’t say the same about the people who run it and ruined it. You would have to be there when I lived there to have the full experience. It doesn’t make justice to put it in words. To describe it in two words… beautifully contrasting. Growing up there was very fun and unique.

Who has been your biggest inspiration as an artist?
I very much admire Escher and Dali. In my family, my cousin Damian. When I was young, he studied graphic design and I will stare at his drawings and the different typography of his homework. Nowadays, the muralists I have met from all over the world have dramatically inspired me. I got to meet in person and work with over 50 of them. It was unique.

In each field, someone different inspire me really. I even have favorite tattoo artists: my friends in Ireland Lou and Ian Flynn. Pretty much the people around me who are so passionate about what they do and they just keep going, it just gets better and better. It’s contagious.

Whats your favorite color?
mmmmm… you mean today? … Are you really asking that to a Gemini, girl, artist?

What can art teach about love?
Everything. Art is one of the most amazing gifts to humanity. It is precious and infinite, interactive. It does something to you. It can be gentle, or not. It is a message itself, of its own language that passes on and travels on thought times. The endless fire that bring to some of us, can be life changing.

Art is creation. To be able to create, is majestic. Nature is art, the way we write and speak is art. In my eyes, everywhere I look there it is. Art is a circle, it is inevitable not to receive it and we must give that inspiration back ten fold. Whatever you create, it has your soul behind it. The positive and the negative, your time, your expression, done with your unique energy, it’s a gift to your own self and to the world once is manifested. Art is there to inspire, and that, to me is love.

Meet an Artopian: Schelley Cassidy

artopia2015-bio-CassidySchelley.jpgWhy have you continued to support Big Bend Cares?
Sense of community has always been a value of mine, and considering I’ve lived in this area my entire life, giving back to my community helps me feel involved. I originally joined the BBC Board of Directors because of a strong drive to help and to also memorialize my best friend, Todd Myers, a member of the LGBT community, who died way too young, way too long ago. Although his death resulted from a car accident, he had constantly lived in fear of developing HIV/AIDS because he was gay. He himself lost many friends to this dreadful disease. There is such an awful stigma still, to this day, but yet we’ve come so far since Todd left this Earth so many years ago. If I can educate just one person, if I can touch just one soul, then I have helped. Big Bend Cares will always be a special mission in my life, and I’m so happy to see such a successful organization grow and thrive. I’m proud of the role I played in Artopia for so many years, it was this one event that made me realize that I’m not just an “artist wannabe,” I’m truly an artist. By meeting other caring souls who wear an artist’s body, I have been inspired to share the world my own visions and artwork. So long story short (if there ever was one), BBC touched my soul and will forever remain one of my passionate endeavors.

What drove you to start creating art?
My mom was the original “Martha Stewart” (although my mom was very nice and had no felony record, ha ha), and she always supported my creative endeavors, even if the first one was a cartoon written all over my bedroom walls with ink and crayon, and let’s not forget those numerous hand prints made with lotion, I must have been three years old. I built my own Barbie doll house, even with glued carpet, when I was five. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t creating something, and/or truly making a mess – the two usually go together. (My poor mom.) I grew older (never grew up, never will) and started to hone my art skills. By honing, I mean I tried everything one could possibly do, from tie-dyed t-shirts, jewelry, knots, Celtic artwork, Shibori, beading, painting, batik, pottery, carving, why don’t I just list what I haven’t done?!? (Sculpture, but it’s on the to-do list.) Finally I did find something that consistently and always stays my number one passion: photography. Through my lens I can show you what I see, through the shutter I can capture a moment in time that will never, ever come again. There is beauty all around, even in the most minute things, you just have to look for it. My passion is finding – and capturing – that beauty.

Do you have a favorite album?
That’s a tough one, as my musical tastes are just as eclectic as my art, or my passions. But yes, I do, because I have a very vivid memory of this particular album: Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason. Soon after this album was released, I was in college taking creative writing classes. One of my favorite professors suggested that we listen to our favorite music to inspire us to write. I remember one night, with my headphones on, sitting back in my Papasan chair, and listening to the melodic rhythm of the paddle rowing in the water, and before I knew it … hours later I awakened with drool down my chin and my writing assignment untouched. But what a great album. It still inspires me to this day! (But I don’t fall asleep so easily.) Fast forward just a few years and my other favorite is anything with Dave Mathews Band. Anything.

Is there one painting or piece of art that can move you to tears?
Let’s start with music, as that is a favorite form of art that I have absolutely zero talent, but much appreciation for: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata can move me to tears, especially when I envision what he was feeling when he wrote this particular masterpiece. Simple yet so heartbreaking, I think he must have felt such a soul-shattering sadness for the person he could not be with, there is such melancholy in those notes, yet so magnificently beautiful. The first time I went to Toledo, Spain (lucky girl I am!), we visited a museum that housed the most intricate, handmade, gold art pieces and other tapestries. These splendid pieces of jewelry, boxes, depictions of churches, etc., were so finely made, in a time when there was no machinery or even sophisticated hand tools, that I was driven to tears, it was that jaw dropping to me. The tapestries, that were hand stitched and weaved, dyed with ground bugs and indigo, to this very day, still look vivid and so lifelike. Wow. Now that’s craftsmanship. That’s worth a tear of joy! One other moment that was tear worthy was a trip to Ireland in 2010, and I attribute this to the universal artwork, the Earth we stand upon. In my entire life I have never seen so many hues and variations of green, I have never seen such deep beauty, from the rolling hills, the frilly sheep, the fairy trees, the old rock borders, the crumbling ruins, the friendly people, the heavenly skies, I remember driving through this country, tears streaming down my face, thinking “I’ve never seen such beauty.” Consider that Hallmark commercials can move me to tears, but beautiful art more so.

Where is your favorite place to be on this Earth?
Now that’s a difficult question because there are so many wonderful places to be on this Earth. I’ve been fortunate to travel the world, have my toes in the sand, my head in the mountains, my eyes pointed at the stars. But my very favorite place is the woods. Nature. Peace. Nothing but the sounds of birds, crickets, the breeze, and my breath. Nothing but the sights of trees, bushes, wildflowers, birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, foxes, snakes, mushrooms, fungi, moss, you get the idea. The Lake Jackson Indian Mounds happen to have my favorite trails, now that’s where I feel at home.

To learn more about Schelley’s imagery, visit her website at

Meet an Artopian: Kayleigh Kirkpatrick

artopia2015-bio-KirkpatrickKayleigh.jpgWhat makes you laugh?
Puns. I love puns.

Who or what has the ability to inspire you to create?
Harry Potter movie marathons and rainy days. My mood is absolutely critical to my art and few things make me happier than rain and HP.

Why are puppies so cute?
Ugh. Puppies. I love puppies. I think it’s the fluff and lack of coordination.

If you could meet one artist, living or dead, who would it be?
WALT DISNEY. No contest. An inventive imagination like no other.

What was the last song or album you purchased?
I’m pretty sure it was Incubus’ A Crow Left of the Murder. The soundtrack to my rainy day paintings.

To see more of Kayleigh’s work, visit her page at Redbubble.

Meet an Artopian: Tripp Farrell

artopia2015-bio-FarrellTripp.jpgWhat is your favorite color?

Why support Big Bend Cares?
I’m honored to be helping a non-profit that is revolutionizing our world & focuses on giving back to the local community.

Who is your biggest influence?
My Father & Pharrell Williams.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m the real bird man of Alcatraz.

How would you describe your art to someone who has never seen it?
My job is to anticipate what comes next & by doing so I make awesome decisions that continue to rattle the art & fashion world. #RecycledMixedMedia

To learn more about Tripp’s art, visit his website at

Meet an Artopian: Stuart Riordan

artopia2015-bio-RiordanStuart.jpgWhere does your energy come from?
My energy comes from my curiosity and music & the beach at dawn.

Who our what has inspired you the most?
I’m inspired by the way light hits the human figure.

What is your favorite color?
My fav color is turquoise.

If you could meet one artist, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d like to meet Larry Rivers, Jim Dine, Velazquez, Michael Sowa, Odd Nerdrum, and… oops… it said one artist… holy cow… guess it’d be Larry Rivers.

When did music collide with your love of art?
I think art collided with my love of music at a very young age… as I listened to music I could make out people and animals in the shadows and textures and wallpaper in my room… then I would draw them all over the walls of the whole house… music still takes me all sorts of places which I paint on birchwood panels instead of the walls.

To learn more about Stuart and her art, visit her website at

Meet an Artopian: Richard Drake

artopia2015-bio-DrakeRichard.jpgWho or what has inspired you the most?
Every minute that passes is gone. It is all that back there, I guess it is called my life so far, that inspires me most. All that I have seen, heard and experienced – my recollections.

What is the best way to float down a river?
The best way to float down a river is on a good old fashioned used inner tube.

Can art be defined?
I hear people’s talks on the topic and I have read what people have said concerning the definition of art, and I don’t care to define it.

What is your favorite color?

Why did you decide to give to Big Bend Cares?
I believe it is good to be charitable and my art gets exposure.

Big Bend Cares

2201 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301

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