Betty Turco is soon retiring from The Hub after a long and experience-filled career and life in service of the arts.
I first met Betty Turco while going through volunteer training at The Hub on Canal. While quite friendly, there was no idle chit-chat; we received our volunteer handbooks and went through them quickly, but thoroughly. In the years since, I have passed Betty frequently and it seems she is almost always on a mission. Trying to get a time to sit down and chat with her about herself makes me hum that ‘60’s song, “Elusive Butterfly” to myself. Therefore, I am relying upon the words of others to describe Betty Turco.
Two of the people that responded to my request for “Betty thoughts and stories” knew her prior to The Hub, when she worked at The Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS) in Daytona Beach. Joyce Hopkins recalled an art trip to Santa Fe that Betty organized and for which she served as tour guide. “It was a wonderful trip. Her attention to detail kept everything running smoothly so we could see/experience so much, yet have time on our own, too. Her friendliness brought the group together.”
She continued, “When I heard that she was coming to The Hub I thought, ‘How smart of them to hire her.’ I didn’t see a lot of Betty at The Hub because I work Mondays… Her day off. However, sometimes she came in and I reminded her of that. She always replied, ”Just checking on a few things,” and left several hours later. She was always supportive of my needle felting and called to see if I had anything for the Christmas gift gallery. Of course, everyone knows that the success of The Hub depended and still depends on many, many people, but I was right, Betty is definitely one of the spokes on our wheel with her expertise, tireless work, attention to all facets of the gallery, and determination to make us the best, and WE ARE!”
Betty Morris Parker, while participating in Outdoor Art Shows, also knew Betty from MOAS. She remembered the year one of her pieces was awarded the Museum Purchase Award and Betty Turco hung it in her office. “That made me happy that it was not displayed away in an obscure room where nobody would see it.” She stated, “When she became involved with helping to open The Hub, she encouraged me to be an exhibiting artist there although I lived in Daytona Beach. A bad weather weekend destroyed my aging tent, so I decided to retire from outdoor shows and rent a wall at The Hub. Betty, in her exuberance for The Hub, helped me take the next step in continuing with the joyfulness of creating and showing my visual artwork. I hope the same joy goes with Betty to her next venture.”
Two more people, both founders of The Hub on Canal, recounted Betty’s introduction to The Hub. Sally Mackay and Susan Ellis both remembered the day when she walked in, as Sally says, “unknown and unannounced,” looked around and said, “You need me.” Both said that she was absolutely correct. Susan says, “I’ve worked alongside Betty all these years and I can tell you she’s smart, funny and tough. Originally I set up the bookkeeping and sales procedures and together we tweaked those as the years went by. Betty trained all of the volunteers and was extremely knowledgeable when it came to retail sales. I wish Betty only the best as she pursues her new life.”
Sally said, “She had an unwavering air of authority. Never prevaricated. Admits now: ‘If I didn’t know what to do, I made it up.’ Everyone knew: you didn’t mess with Betty. She flatly refused requests that she carry a cell phone, and didn’t waiver for several years. When she left work at the end of the day…trust me, she was gone! I believe that she worked for a London (UK) based travel agency that secured the job of booking flights for The Beatles. And that she knew them well and was invited, together with other people to their house(s) for dinner. She was a dancer in one of her earlier lives/iterations. We couldn’t have done it (The Hub) without her!”
Still others had anecdotes. Grace McNabb recounted, “My best story about Betty would be when Michelle Jachim and I volunteered for the First Saturdays at The Hub and we were responsible for setting up the food for the night. Betty would come into the kitchen and announce that she was with quality control and that her responsibility was to taste the food prior to presenting it to the many visitors. She would tell us that the fruit and cheese passed, but would need to return when the sandwiches were cut and prepared. And that she did! And she would look at us and say, ‘thank you for being here.’ And we all smiled!!!”
Midge Wilson recollected, “I worked with Betty on the photo exhibit, ‘A Moment in Time,’ for a gallery show which featured B/W photographs by my former partner Michael Abramson that were taken in Chicago nightclubs and ballrooms during the 1970s. Betty would always point to this particular photo as her favorite, which made me wonder if Betty secretly coveted this particular hairstyle!”
Kathy Standing, a front desk volunteer at The Hub for several years for First Saturday, had this tale: “One Saturday a very lovely couple bought a piece of art that was expensive and very breakable. Betty passed by as I was wrapping it. She decided it needed to have a box with more bubble wrap. The couple waited patiently while Betty finished. Then, Betty decided she would walk IT to the couple’s car. This was a few blocks. On her way, there was a sudden downpour. Betty walked back soaking wet. This is how our Betty was — very dedicated. But it was also a laughable morning. She will be missed.” Can’t you just see her, with her determined stride, protecting that piece of art?
I chuckled aloud when two of our artists reported the same idiosyncrasy. Lisa Engelbrecht had this to say: “I am a relatively new artist at The Hub, but have thoroughly enjoyed working with Betty. I am a resident artist in the Fine Art Photography Gallery and I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with her. Betty’s sense of humor is a delight in her honest feedback and directness of her opinions is refreshing. I really appreciate it and have learned a great deal from her already. When I found out her age I was SHOCKED because she seemed decades younger than that. She is often looking for her glasses (which are sometimes on her head) and her mask (which is often hanging from her ear). Instead of being annoyed when she realizes it, she laughs and so do we. My life has been enriched by knowing her.”
Another artist, Dave Coleman, agreed, “I have had the good fortune of working with Betty in the Fine Art Photography Gallery at The Hub. One thing about her that makes me chuckle is that she is constantly misplacing her reading glasses. Some of the volunteers know this and whenever any reading glasses are found in or around The Hub, they automatically take them to Betty because they’re probably hers. Betty would be a great subject for ‘The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met’ in ‘Reader’s Digest.’”
Others wanted to sing her praises. Anne Higginbotham said, “I was one of 70 artists under the direction of Betty. She made sure we followed all the rules and procedures. If not, we all knew she would certainly snap us into line. But we also knew that she was full of great wisdom and expertise and cared so much for each of us in The Hub. We are grateful for all she did to make The Hub the very special place it is today. We will really miss her!”
Debbie Moser chimed in, “Betty is synonymous with The Hub. Ever since I have been a part of The Hub, Betty has been the tapestry that held The Hub together. On every First Saturday, she would orchestrate all that needed to happen to make the day successful. The Hub has been blessed with so many wonderful people and Betty is a shining star among them.”
Pamela Ramey Tatum had this to say: “Betty was always willing to help Hub artists. She always made time. Even though her job description included 1000 other things, she treated us artists as though we were The Hub’s most valuable asset.”
And Mary Gerlach stated, “All I could add is that Betty was always there… Really present… Always looking around the physical space, evaluating how to make “us” The Hub, look better, look professional as a unique art gallery. And she always looked mighty fine… I mean clothes, accessories and all…”
Obviously, Betty Turco has been a commanding presence at The Hub on Canal since she entered our wonderful facility. As I join the others in wishing her the very best, I’m sure this dynamo with a dynamic personality will not be sitting in a rocking chair, twiddling her thumbs!
****I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the people who contributed to this article. I hope I left no one out.
I have a funny story to tell you.
Three or four years ago, I was having an estimate done for tiling my balcony. The gentleman took a look at a painting hanging on my wall and asked, “Is that supposed to be a wave?” I said, “Yes, it’s supposed to be.” He responded, “Well, is it finished?” I answered, “I guess it’s finished until Frank Ferrante comes to my house and tells me what else I need to do.” The tiler said, “Well, I’m an artist and I guess I’ll just call it an abstract.”
Recently, I told the story to Frank Ferrante and showed him a photo of the painting. I’m sure he was underwhelmed, but HE recognized it as a wave, true artist that he is!
I actually did that painting in Frank Ferrante’s class, but please don’t think that he is anything less than a teacher extraordinaire! I had admired Frank’s work from the time I walked into The Hub on Canal and glanced to my right. That studio was loaded with exquisite masterpieces of my beloved ocean. At the time I never ventured into any of the studios to actually speak to the artists, fearful of disturbing them, although now I know that the artists welcome guests and enjoy interacting with them. When I saw that there was a workshop actually offered by Frank Ferrante, I signed up, and with my heart beating out of my chest, I ventured to take my very first oil painting class. And let me tell you again that Frank is not only a master painter, he’s a master teacher. He patiently describes processes and travels around the classroom giving individual guidance to each student. I feel that everyone left that workshop with a piece of art they could be proud of.
Through the four years that I have been a member of The Hub on Canal, I have gotten to know Frank somewhat, but I was delighted when he agreed to chat with me for this blog. He is an interesting, charming, talented gentleman with a great sense of humor.
One of the first things I asked about was his family. He’s driving to Colorado Springs this summer to visit his two children (whom he states are what he’s most proud of in his life) and two grandchildren. Drumroll, please! Frank will be celebratng his 80th birthday! I was astonished! (On my way to chat with Frank, I was trying to figure out how much younger he is than I.)
So, a little background. Frank was born, almost 80 years ago (still astonishes me) in New Jersey, an only child. Constantly pencil drawing to entertain himself, early on he found an avocation which would evolve into a vocation. In 1961, he entered the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts studying advertising design. He did cast drawings, which were plaster casts of feet, hands, torsos, etcetera, as well as charcoal drawing and figure drawing. He did black and white washes of items such as furniture and plants. All his studies while in the School consisted of drawing and composition, no color whatsoever. On his own, he decided to experiment with color, an easy transition from charcoal to pastels. He then progressed to watercolor, which he didn’t enjoy, then to acrylics, but he had no training at all in using color.
For Christmas, 1965, he was gifted a little tin starter set of oils to try, but a month later he was drafted into the Marine Corps, where he was fortunate enough to serve in the Marine band playing saxophone. Living in a little trailer, he did countless oil paintings, “each one uglier than the next,” he chortled.
Because Frank loved the advertising field, after his stint in service, he began working for a pharmaceutical company in marketing and sales. Continuing his education, he earned a B.S. in marketing at Rutgers University. Luckily, he then “stumbled upon” Ridgewood Art Institute, where he began his serious relationship with oil painting after meeting John Osborne. Frank stated, “I loved, loved his work.” John Osborne is a master painter who was influenced by Frank Dumond. Dumond is known for his circa 1880 “prismatic palette.” John Osborne is a devotee of this pallette and taught its use to our Frank as they painted together every Wednesday night in the studio and every Sunday morning doing plein air, for 22 years! Frank still uses this palette, though slightly modified, and pointed out the concept to me on one of his landscapes. It uses a progression from yellow to orange to red to violet, like a prism. (The result is subtle; I need a few more lessons, maybe even longer than 22 years worth!). Ninety-nine percent of his classes were still life. Frank says, “Still life is to painting as scales are to music,” a statement that surprises me, but makes perfect sense as I ponder it.
While continuing his painting, Frank’s career path forked and he took the road that led to the formation of a full service advertising agency with two others, Salthouse Torre Ferrante, Inc. The agency’s first successful product launch was for Zantact, developed by Glaxo Pharmaceutical. After eight years, he took off on his own and established Frank Ferrante Marketing Communications, Inc, a one man shop with a secretary. Ten years ago, he left New Jersey and moved here. I am always curious as to what draws people to our state, and to our particular area. Frank’s reason was simple: “I got taxed out of the state.” He put everything (including painting supplies) in storage and moved south. He had been so involved in painting and in teaching painting, that the move hit him hard. He did nothing with painting for nine months. “I was the most miserable person in the world,” he said. However, he found painting and teaching opportunities at The Art League of Daytona Beach, the Artists’ Workshop and, luckily for us, The Hub on Canal. He had heard of The Hub, open only a year, and brought his paintings to Sally Mackay, one of the founders of the facility. After talking with others, Frank was allowed one of the studios, though not in his present primo spot!
One thing that particularly interests me is that Frank tubes his own blues, greys, and greens, meaning he mixes his paint and puts it in a 40mm metal tube and crimps the end, resulting in a tube of paint that is mixed with the other palette colors, prior to painting on the canvas. The most important thing in a painting, Frank asserts, is that there is a triad; there must be three values: light, medium, and dark, whether you are painting “a pebble on the beach or the Taj Mahal.”
When I asked Frank what the worst thing he had seen someone do to a painting, he chuckled as he told me of an event that happened when he was judging paintings. He related that an individual had evidently left to go to lunch in the middle of a plein air painting, but failed to realize that the lighting had changed. So, in part of the painting, the shadows were to one side of the objects and to the opposite side in the rest of it.
Besides being an oil painter, many people familiar with The Hub on Canal are aware that Frank is a saxophone player, beginning at age 9 all the way through his military days. But what they may not know is that he put the sax down and didn’t touch it for 50 years. He actually had to buy finger charts when he reacquainted himself with the instrument. An accomplished musician, he actually raised $10,000 for the outreach program at The Hub. As an aside, you may not be aware of all the wonderful work The Hub sponsors. Since the beginning community outreach has been an integral part of the focus of The Hub on Canal, and hopefully will be the subject of a future blog.
Returning to the current subject, I asked Frank what he wanted people to take away from his work, he replied,“If they could share in my enjoyment.” I have shared in his enjoyment on more than one level. I have two paintings hanging on my wall from his workshops as well as one of his actual demo paintings. Everytime I walk into The Hub, I get to share in his enjoyment as I look into his studio, often able to watch the artist creating. Obviously, this is a man who loves his avocation/vocation. How fortunate we are to have the delightful Frank Ferrante and his fabulous works at The Hub!
Addendum: After I finished writing this, a little bird told me that Frank is a fantastic cook, emphasizing the word “fantastic.” Frank, given the opportunity, I’ll be glad to give you my opinion!
Written by Donna Bradley