Generations of Art, History, and Good Vibes
As a 4th generation resident of Brevard County, Dawn Harrell has a long history of finding inspiration from her breathtaking surroundings. Throughout her lifetime she has experimented with many different mediums to create art, but it is the feeling of pure bliss she receives as her paint brush caresses the canvas and her vision begins to emerge that captures her heart. “Creating art has been a means of communicating to others what I enjoy.”, she writes on her website; and the WAY she communicates…pure magic.
I had the pleasure of first encountering Dawn’s work when I visited Gary Langley, owner of Beachside Timeout Massage, to donate a print for their Grand Opening raffle. As Gary provided the VIP tour of his fresh new facility, I was captivated by the enchanting art covering the walls. Bright colored ocean scenes, playful wildlife, and gentle breaking waves provided a soothing ambiance. I knew instantly that I would own a piece of art from this amazing artist one day!
Surprisingly, after that first day seeing Dawn’s work, I started noticing her art all over town. I’m a huge Taco Tuesday fan so Taco City is a frequent haunt. Lo and behold, there was Dawn’s art again! Turns out, you can also find her incredible work at Pappagallos Beachside and Islands Fish Grill, as well as other fine Brevard County establishments. When I asked Dawn about the pieces displayed on the walls of local businesses, she stated, “Whenever I paint a painting, I never know who it’s for until that person finds their painting.”
A few months after first viewing her work, I was scrolling through her online gallery when my heart skipped a beat and I stopped breathing for a moment. Real tears blurred my vision as I gazed upon “Shark Karma”; an original painting of a surfer sitting on a surfboard waiting for his next wave, captured from the ocean floor as if from the perspective of a shark. The sun rays shining down through the water, lighting the depths and creating brilliant gradients of turquoise, aquamarine, and deep blue, make you feel as if you are under the surface watching the scene unfold. I found my painting. No question.
As a young girl, Dawn spent summers with her grandmother who always encouraged her creativity. Memories of macrame classes, pottery making, sketching, and various other art classes still bring a smile to her face. “When I was in junior high school at Roosevelt in Cocoa Beach, one of the Highway Men, Mr. Lewis, was my art teacher. He really taught me a lot about sculpting and firing clay. I learned a lot about painting from him as well.”, she explained. It is this strong artistic and inventive start in her formative years that helped lead her through many creative endeavors including hair design, makeup artistry, sculpting and on to her primary passion; painting.
Dawn is also a self-proclaimed Clean Water Activist and is instrumental in supporting the Florida Health Connection’s #FightForZero campaign. Fight for Zero is a clean water initiative striving for zero contaminants in drinking water here on the Space Coast and beyond. The campaign brings awareness to the issues at hand and provides resources for education and outreach. Recently, Dawn donated a generous percentage of profits from selling her art to support #FightForZero in Brevard County. One of the critical things I learned from Dawn is that clean water is not a right. I have to admit I never thought about that before, and frankly, grew up not giving it a second thought. “We must all learn about our drinking water supply and our river estuary water health and make sure it’s good for us, the wildlife, and the environment”, she added with passion.
If you’re also a Brevard County local, you may recall Erin Brockovich hosted a Town Hall Meeting in Satellite Beach on September 29th, 2018, to provide education to our community about safe water practices and how to get involved to make a difference. Dawn had the honor of meeting Erin and spent time discussing sea turtles and how they and other wildlife are affected by contaminants in our local waterways. I can only imagine how humbled Dawn was when Erin acquired one of her Honu paintings. “It was wonderful to see her so touched over the turtles. As she held my art in her hands, we looked each other in the eyes knowing we have to make a change and be a voice for them.”, she said.
With 4 equally artistically-talented daughters carrying on the 5th generation 'Brevardian' legacy, Dawn is simply passing on the love for her community that she learned from her elders. Her family’s history can be felt all over town. The founder of the well-known social group, The Mosquito Beaters, is none other than Dawn’s uncle, George “Speedy” Harrell!
When you have 8 minutes to spare, maybe while enjoying your morning coffee, I encourage you to invest it watching the following video. It explains how the Mosquito Beaters was formed and is just a soulful view into the hearts and minds of the generations of wonderful people who share a love for this community. The segment begins at 1:30 into the video, and runs until the 10 minute mark. https://www.pbs.org/video/mosquito-beaters-memories-7mk7pf/
Now that the oppressive heat of the Florida summer has dissipated, and the ocean breeze no longer feels like a hair dryer blowing in your face, you can find Dawn at Breaker's Art Gallery, where she is owner and curator, in Satellite Beach. Drop by to say hello and enjoy a wonderful conversation and viewing art from 18 local artists, including Dawn's incredible work.
When I consider what the energy behind #livethevibe means, Dawn could be the poster child. She is the epitome of embracing her authentic life, using her gifts to support her family, and tirelessly undertaking projects to make her community a better place for generations to come.