The recent death of Joanne (Jo) Baughman, long-time director of the Pasco Fine Arts Council (PFAC), has been especially sad for art lovers in Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and Dade City because her leadership was instrumental in the founding of the East Pasco Fine Arts Gallery.
It was just one year ago that the executive team at Avalon Park Wesley Chapel met with Baughman to offer its community’s Welcome Center as a new gallery for the Pasco Fine Arts Council. The developer also committed to building an Arts Center in its new downtown, as a permanent location when its downtown opens.
For Baughman, who was involved in the Pasco Fine Arts Council for 22 years, and director for the past five, the invitation from Avalon Park Wesley Chapel to work together accomplished a long-held dream.
“We’re very excited about expanding the presence of the Fine Arts Council to East Pasco County,” Baughman said, in an interview with The Laker/Lutz News in September 2019. “It will be thrilling to feature local artists and discover new artists through these events and educational opportunities made possible through this partnership.”
In the year that Baughman headed up activities at the East Pasco Fine Arts Gallery, there have been bi-monthly art shows exhibiting the works of local artists, and several workshops for beginning and experienced artists. And, when the pandemic changed how people could meet, Baughman organized virtual art shows and workshops.
Baughman was 75 when she died Sept. 18 after a short battle with lung cancer. She passed away at her New Port Richey home while under the care of Gulfside Hospice, with her husband, Jack, at her side. The Baughmans were married for 57 years.
The loss of Baughman was especially emotional for Stephanie Lerret, who worked closely with Baughman to set up the location of the East Pasco Fine Arts Council at Avalon Park Wesley Chapel.
“Jo had an unrivaled passion for the arts! Her desire to share that passion with others was an inspiration. Our relationship with PFAC started with a couple of “what-if” conversations and quickly expanded into a blossoming presence of the arts in East Pasco County. We are blessed to have known Jo and to absorb her knowledge of the finer things,” said Lerret, senior vice president of the Avalon Park Group.
Bob Langford, chairman of the Pasco Fine Arts Council, said replacing Baughman will be a formidable task.
“Jo meant a great deal to our organization. She was a very capable person who not only ran the center and all of its programs, but also continued her first love of teaching,” said Langford.
Opening the East Pasco Fine Arts Gallery was one of Baughman ‘s proudest achievements, Langford said. “We had been trying to do something on the east side of the county for many years, and Jo was so proud of our new center at Avalon Park.”
Langford announced that board member Susan Ray has been appointed interim director of the Pasco Fine Arts Council, and that a search has begun for a new executive director.
“Jo had so much energy and such dedication to the center,” said Ray. ”Her love of arts was contagious, and she was an inspiration to all of us. She was an excellent teacher and so encouraging to her students, whether they were taking their first lesson or were an experienced artist.”
Rita Wilson, a Land O’ Lakes watercolor artist who took lessons from Baughman, shared the following about her mentor.
“Jo never gave up on anybody. She was easy to learn from and was very good at gentle criticism that made you a better painter. She did so much for her students and the center‚ I can’t tell you how much she will be missed,” said Wilson, who also was one of the first artists to exhibit at the East Pasco gallery.
Dozens of art lovers and former students also shared their thoughts about Baughman’s passing, on the Facebook page for the Pasco Fine Arts Council.
“When I began my watercolor journey, Jo was my first teacher and I was in her very first class, 19 years ago this month. She was so warm and friendly, eager to bring out the best in all her students, to help us find our artistic voice. She was the best kind of teacher and I have always felt so blessed to have found her. But most of all, she was my friend, my art ‘mom,’ always cheering me on. To say that Jo was the heart and soul of PFAC is true, but still seems inadequate. I was always in awe of her boundless energy. I will miss her warm smile, sense of humor, and our talks more than I can say. Such a wonderful, joyous lady. It has been such a privilege to know her.” – Suzanne McManus Natzke
“I’m really at a loss for words. She was a formidable mentor with boundless energy. She could juggle more tasks at one time than anyone I knew. I loved the way her students loved her and how she would encourage them. I’m so grateful she was able to keep the center going and thriving. If she was so loved, the greatest gift you can make to her memory is to keep the center moving and growing…as her legacy. Knowing her showed me there is a season for all things.” – Laura Knox
“I met Jo about 5 years ago, when I visited the Pasco Fine Art Center, after moving to Florida. I was looking for artists wishing to join the art community in the area. When I opened the Art Center’s door and introduced myself, Jo opened her heart and introduced me to her soul. Her smile was never absent on her face, and her usual greeting and good-bye was always a warm hug. Thanks to her I was able to organize my first solo exhibition in the States. She worked hard to keep the Art Center running, infusing energy to everybody through her love for the Art. Now Jo is not with us. She departed and left us her smile, her goodness, her passion. I am honored to have meet such a woman, such a person, such a friend.” – Ernesto Miguel Blanco Sanciprianm
A Catholic Memorial Service was held Sept. 28, which would have been Baughman’s 76th birthday, at Grace Memorial Gardens in Hudson. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made in her memory to the Pasco Fine Arts Center, 4145 Fairford Drive, New Port Richey, FL 34652, or online as PascoArts.org/donate.
Published September 30, 2020