The Kotzmans are headed to Harvard, but it’s not to a university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Rather it’s a farm outside Chicago where their firefighter son lives, and there they will have a chance to continue to create the magnificent art that graced their stay in Carrabelle for the last two decades.
“Everything grows there. The soil is pitch black,” said Joe Kotzman, his description in keeping with the artist’s eye that he’s shown on his fanciful, surreal watercolors.
“I’m sad to be leaving,” he said. “We’ve been here 20 years, and this place just grows on you. Everything is so restful and accommodating.
His wife Josefa is more succinct, speaking in the rich Spanish accent that has stuck with her ever since she met her husband and married in 1967 while they were young art students in Seville.
“If we weren’t so old we would stay,” she said.
The memories they leave behind, and which was honored Saturday night at a reception at Rio Carrabelle, are deep and lasting ones.
“Joe has been a steadying inspiration, and a continuing legacy of giving inspiration,” said Marian Morris, a leader of the Carrabelle Artists Association with which the Kotzmans were long involved.
“Like so many other artists it’s not been in ‘bursts,” she said. “He’s there, he’s steady, he produces his prints. You look at it and you go gaga.”
Josefa’s admiration for her husband of 55 years is unabashed. “I really think he’s a genius,” she said. “The way he paints, that’s the way his mind works.”
Josefa has been equally prolific, while working in everything from ceramics to acrylics.
“She’s a wonderful education,” said Morris. ”She was able to inspire me because that was my love, pottery. She loves pottery.”
With a jazz trio featuring Rio Carrabelle owner Bo May on saxophone, Brian Hall on bass and Andrew Salow on piano, the gallery was filled with music and art as guests dined on homemade treats.
Rio Carrabelle is now a working artists’ studio, featuring works by Bill Owen, Pat Moore and Fred Aman,
Works by Owen, Moore and Aman were on display Saturday alongside that of the Kitzmans.
Moore works in oils, and looks back on a long career in the arts, including dancing in 1944 in the first full-length American productions of Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker, staged by the San Francisco Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in America.
These days she stays active in the Carrabelle Artists Association, which meets every Tuesday at the Carrabelle Senior Center. The CAA president Lori Overstreet was on hand Saturday, helping to serve up the reception table.
“You need to know how much we’ve appreciated that you have been in Carrabelle,” May said of the Kotzmans, in his brief remarks. “You’re fabulous people, and we’re going to miss you a lot.”
The Kotzmans were set to leave for Illinois earlier this week, along with their Walker hound Rafael and their mixed lab Cola.
Joe Kotzman’s works are available in Apalachicola at the River’s Edge Gallery, 59 Commerce Street, which is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 850-653-1031 for more information.