One of the artists who will be judging the 19th Congressional District’s Artistic Discovery Contest with me is Mercedes Price. If you’re not familiar with Mercedes, she owns and operates Vino’s Picasso, which takes people with no previous artistic experience or aptitude on a convivial adventure during which they combine a glass or two of wine, some paint and a canvas to make a masterpiece they’ll treasure for years to come. Although she’s one of the least pretentious people you’ll ever encounter, she actually pays homage every day to Captiva’s favorite son, Robert Rauschenberg, who once said, “If I do my job correctly, we won’t need artists anymore.”

It’s not that Mercedes disdains artists and what we do each day. To the contrary, she’s always loved painting and the process of creating art. But like Rauschenberg, Mercedes believes we all have an inner artist just begging to be released. It’s just that most of us labor under these preconceptions and inhibitions that artists are in some way imbued by the Creator or the universe with talents the rest of us simply don’t enjoy. To get around these misconceptions, she combines a wee bit of alcohol with a large measure of sociability to create a fun, relaxed, energetic vibe. Then she and her team serve as guides, showing participants that everyone and anyone can create art – their art. There’s no right or wrong. No good or bad.

Which brings us back to Rauschenberg’s raison d’etre as an artist, an educator and a person. Rauschenberg’s gift was his characteristic proclivity to see the world in a fresh and unconventional way and communicate to viewers around the world that people can make art from anything in any way the mind can imagine. Prior to Rauschenberg, brushes and oils were the stuff from which artworks were made.

Since Rauschenberg, debris, detritus, cardboard boxes, dirt and even nose oil can be molded into an artwork. With that realization comes the inevitable conclusion that anyone can offer new ways of seeing and interacting with the world around us – not just artists like a Manet, a van Gogh or even a Bob Rauschenberg.

Mercedes did not start out in art. She actually had a career in the medical field for more than eight years. But then she took a trip to South Carolina to visit her sister. During that visit, she experienced something similar to Vino’s Picasso and knew what she was destined to do. So she took her savings, opened a studio and launched Vino’s Picasso – well before the current paint and wine craze. “Our goal is for people to relax, enjoy themselves and create,” Mercedes says. “We’re not about fine art, but fun art.”

The logistics are simple: visit Vino’s Picasso website, choose a piece of art from the calendar, reserve your spot and show up with your beer or wine. “All you need to do is bring an ID and an open mind because this non-traditional type of studio provides a place of inspiration for patrons. We supply the paint (acrylic), palette, brushes, canvas, apron and even corkscrews for you to open your bottles. We set it all up and clean it all up too!”

You can also choose your location. I’m a little biased in that regard. I can’t think of a better place to embrace your inner artist than at Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens. Mercedes and her team hold painting sessions here several times a week. But season ends with Easter, so you only have about thirty more chances this season to experience Vino’s Picasso for yourself. Just go online to pick the day and subject that interests you most. And when you do come out, you’ll discover just what I, Bob Rauschenberg and Mercedes already know. We’re all artists at heart. It’s a matter of attitude, not aptitude!