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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Craig and Renata: WPB Power Art Couple

Their work is all around, with individual art shows at the Cultural Council, The Peach, and Subculture Coffee Shops. Another event the couple hosts is the annual Fright Nights for Halloween in October.

Brought together in cyberspace, Craig McInnis and Renata Rodrigues have become united in art and creativity in West Palm Beach. Their work is all around, with individual art shows at the Cultural Council, The Peach, and Subculture Coffee Shops.

They met online against all odds and maintained a long-distance relationship.

“We met online, on a dating site,” Renata says. “I was living in Brazil, but the US was on my list to move to. I never thought that kind of thing would work, and I just did it to see what happens. Craig, I think you were doing the same thing.”

Craig says, “That was my first time on the dating site. At that time, they were less popular than they are now. I was being lazy and putting a 50-mile radius of people I could meet, and Renata was looking further…”

“I was open to the world,” Renata interrupts. “Yeah, outside of Brazil, the United States was on the list. The technology did its job due to the algorithm and our shared interests. I appeared on his radar.”

Back then, Renata lived in Brazil but had lived overseas for many years in Australia and New Zealand. She says she enjoyed the English language, so when she was on the website, she wanted to talk to people who spoke English. She had never been to the United States.

They connected, and then she visited Florida a few times, “and we connected more,” Craig says. “There were Skype calls to get to know each other. Then, some visits, and then she moved here, and we got married after eight months of knowing each other, and now we have been married for eight years.”

“I wasn’t working as an artist when we met,” Renata says. “I was a real estate agent in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but I had taken some art classes. Hearing Craig respond that I might experience a bigger art scene in Florida opened my eyes to the possibility.”

“It started with her taking classes from me as I was in the artist residence program up in Northwood,” Craig says. “And it’s funny because I knew she was coming from an art background. I just didn’t know to what degree because, where she went to university, you had to take basic fine art skills and technicalities to get work. She came into the class and could already draw better than me! She was in there for a few months, bumming out my other students, and I’m making a joke, but sort of because she was just smashing everything I gave her in the painting class.”

“I jokingly said, ‘You’ve got to get out of here. You’ve got to get out of the class.’ That led to her doing the work out of our house in the second bedroom as a studio, exploring her own series.”

Craig was in Northwood then, a couple of years into the artist program there, which offered free classes and was part of the program through the CRA.

“I was just really diving deep back into painting again. I had always been doing murals, but I started painting canvas again. We were both working out of there independently, but Renata was coming and helping me block in murals, too, because I was still getting a good bit of mural work that was keeping the bills paid. So, I would say that her first collaboration was working with me on these big walls.  Now she does her own murals.”

When Craig received notice that he had to leave the Northwood studio after many years, he was upset and wondered where to go next.

“Everything happens for a reason, but you can’t see it when you’re in it. The timing was just absolutely phenomenal, karmically spectacular, because right as that was circling the drain, that’s where Rodney Mayo came, and his timing of opening The Peach was almost identical to the end of that. He offered me the management position at The Peach, and that’s where we are now. I went from a shared studio with five other artists to my own studio and managing several other spaces. So, a huge jump.”

“Our residential living arrangements are also ten times better, and it’s five minutes from The Peach, all this during the pandemic. Rodney stepped in with that kind of vision and opportunity and trusted me because he and I had been co-conspirators on many of his restaurants and clubs, and I guess he had been looking at me as a good manager.”

The Peach is a complete artist community with studios, shows, a restaurant, open courtyard space, and easy parking. Artists Scott Jeffries and Daniel Newcomb have exhibited there.

“I’m also looking forward to next season,” Craig says. “Summer will be a little quiet. We will still do the gallery shows, but I will start programming from December to May, probably by June. I have some good ideas.”

Another event the couple hosts is the Fright Nights for Halloween in October, a foreign holiday to Renata in Brazil.

“The first night that I was there,” she says, “Craig was inside getting changed, getting ready, and I was by myself sitting outside, and this guy came out with a chainsaw! That scared me. But soon, I became a performer. We love it. We love scaring people to this day.”

Craig adds, “It’s still my favorite part, even after all the design stuff and all the behind-the-curtain stuff. I’d rather be in character out on the midway interacting.”

Renata made a recent mural for Mayo’s Subculture Coffee House in Boca Raton that riffs on Salvador Dali. Dali holds a melting latte as cups with anguished faces run through surreal landscapes. Her artwork is used on the signage and the menus.

“Rodney gave me the lead,” Renata says. “He had this photo that he likes, but the rest I created, those were my ideas. The cups run with the faces on them, and the dogs and the never-ending stories stuck there. I even did some 3D coffee beans with angel wings hanging from the ceiling.”

They both just finished murals for Sunfest. That wasn’t necessarily a collaboration, but they were both working on their own. In the summer, Renata is a swim instructor, and Craig plans some studio renovations.

As for planning the one-time shows at The Peach, Craig says it’s a mix. Sometimes, someone comes to the table with an idea, and sometimes, he goes out and cherry-picks someone.

“I’ve thrown a couple of group shows there; it’s a nice mix. A lot of times, someone comes out of the woodwork I’ve never known with a fantastic body of work and asks me if they can have the room. And yeah, we do a small rental fee. I basically hand them the keys to the room and say, ‘It’s yours for three weeks. Program it.'”

As for joint projects, he says, “There’s been a few canvases or projects where we both painted on them at the same time. It’s not the main formula for how we do it because we’re both of a different personality. I know my destination kind of people, but then when it comes time to work together, it works. And the other thing we do is respect boundaries. I’m not over here giving her an art critique. She’s not giving me an unsolicited art critique.

But if I get backed into a corner on something and I don’t know how to get out of this funk or fix this painting, or I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it, I’ve got another professional artist under the same roof. So, we do that for each other as well, but in a respectful way that works.”

Renata says, “Craig can work in a group, and everybody’s painting together; I have a home studio. The Peach is a crazy studio place, even though I’m always there, and people assume I am a part of The Peach. I am technically not. I don’t have a studio there. I’m just a supporter and always there for the events.”

See their work at: www.craigmcinnis.com. Online @renatarodriguesart

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