By Reggie Smith
On a whim, Jo Ann Staat entered a local Christmas Seal stamp art contest in 1965. She won the amateur division and it began her love of art. Her husband Richard was a commercial artist at the time and he, himself, had been creating artwork at home which he had been entering into contests. So, perhaps Jo Ann’s love of art started a bit before she won the contest. But, it definitely started her own path down the visual arts world. She had been performing music since she was four years old, starting at the Goddard School of Music. She studied there for eleven years. Music is still “at the top” of her list when asked about what type of art she does. She plays the keyboard and can often be seen performing at art shows, such as the Brunswick Arts Council’s Annual Exhibition. In both the music she plays and the music she listens to, Jo Ann prefers Big Band music and “something I can tap my feet to.” After studying classical music for so long, she says that it’s now her least favorite genre.
Jo Ann retired from her position as the Administrator in Internal Medicine at Ohio State University in 1994. She and Richard moved to Brunswick County from Ohio after her brother had retired and moved to Ocean Isle Beach. They have been a huge part of the local art scene since then, having been members of, or are still members of, the Associated Artists of Southport, The Oak Island Art Guild, and the Brunswick Arts Council. Having served as President, Treasurer, and just about every possible position on the BAC’s Board, Jo Ann is currently the Chair of the Visual Arts division and is instrumental in organizing the BAC’s Annual Spring and Fall Exhibitions. She is also a signature member of the Watercolor Society of North Carolina.
Working mostly in watercolors, Jo Ann occasionally will do a piece in ink. She likes to do her painting at her husband’s art class at Franklin Square Gallery in Southport. However, occasionally she may see something that “catches my eye (and) I will sketch it and paint it later.” Richard is the person she lists are her main influence, but also recalls that “Ruth Firestone invited me to attend an art session in Gatlinburg. I couldn’t leave it alone afterward.”
In an interview published in the Star News, after she had become President of the Brunswick Arts Council, Jo Ann stated, “I don’t think people are aware of all the wonderful things the Brunswick Arts Council does for the Community” and she instituted the quarterly meeting of all art related non-profits to share their agendas etc., with everyone in the county. The current Board of Directors of the BAC is considering restarting this initiative.
It is obvious to anyone that knows Jo Ann that the arts, in all its forms, is important to her. She encourages young people to pursue their art. She feels that “the next Rembrandt or Monet is just around the corner.”
This article has been edited to correct an error. The previous version stated that Mrs. Staat retired in 1982. The actual year she retired was 1994. We apologize for the error.