The local art community is grieving after learning of the death of one of their own. Kim Minichiello, a Windermere resident who is widely known both locally and internationally, died Friday, July 23, of a heart attack at the age of 56. She was vacationing with her family at the time of her death.
She was vital to the success of the Winter Garden Art Association and the SoBo Gallery on South Boyd Street and was there in its infancy.
“When we were first forming, she was willing to jump in from the very beginning; when we started, she was on the board,” said Mary Keating, one of the WGAA founders. “I was in charge of the exhibitions, and she and I worked hand in hand. … She made sure the exhibits were top notch, but she could appreciate all (skill) levels.”
‘SHE EXCELLED AT ALL OF IT’
Kim Minichiello was involved in many art organizations outside Winter Garden. She was recently named president of the Florida Watercolor Society, and this role helped the WGAA secure the society’s traveling watercolor show.
“She’s really all over,” Keating said. “I know she’s very well loved everywhere. … She was just so gracious with her knowledge and willingness to share.”
She touted herself as an artist, designer, traveler and mentor, “and she excelled at all of it,” her daughter, Alaina Minichiello, said.
The artist taught many workshops and private lessons on watercolor technique, watercolor plein air sketching and painting, as well as those workshops geared toward studio work.
Her husband said she was an amazing teacher. The digital director at Florida Watercolor Society gave him notes students wrote about their instructor.
One read: “Kim was my mentor. She encouraged me to complete. I didn’t think my painting was good enough. … Thanks to Kim, I won eight awards. … She was kind enough to take a 72-year-old novice under her wing.”
Following Kim Minichiello’s death, Keating said she had conversations with many artists who said she helped them tremendously.
Her impact reached outside of Winter Garden; she taught classes, including watercolor and plein air, and judged exhibitions across Central Florida.
“She had such taste, she had such an eye for what was right, and she would explain why, ‘That looks great here because of this,’” Keating said. “She would be able to look at a composition and say, ‘Well, that looks nice there, but it would look really nice here.”
Kim and her husband, David, also an artist, met at Walt Disney World Co. in California when both were hired to work on the Disneyland Paris theme park. They got married during that time and eventually moved to Central Florida.
The couple painted wherever they went, taking along their watercolor sketch books and frequently stopping to capture the scenes before them. She enjoyed painting in the plein air style.
She was a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering for many years, designing shops, restaurants and attractions for theme parks in Florida California, Paris and Tokyo. She illustrated menus for Disney restaurants and taught painting workshops for Imagineers.
She also established herself as an accomplished textile artist, co-found a studio creating digital art, and worked with more than 35 manufacturers of home and fashion accessories, toys and other products that were sold in large merchandising chains.
David Minichiello was in awe of his wife’s artistic talents, from her still life pieces to her collection of Asian artwork.
“She had a great affinity for the Japanese culture, and she was fascinated by it and self-studied it for years,” he said. “Her geisha series and her Samarai series were all based on the Japanese culture.”
On her website, Kim Minichiello shared that she drew inspiration from her surroundings, whether it was people or cultures, and her art incorporated themes based on Asian temples, European museums and the natural world of rural Indiana.
LIFE BY THE GOLDEN RULE
She was a board member of the Winter Garden Art Association and was president of the Florida Watercolor Society in 2019. Her most recent accomplishment was obtaining signature membership in the American Watercolor Society.
She held memberships in nine professional painting societies, including the Florida, Missouri, Southern and National watercolor societies.
Her awards and honors are numerous and varied — the result of shows at the Orlando Museum of Art and SoBo Art Gallery; from events such as the Windermere Art Affair and Georgia Watercolor Society National Exhibition; and internationally in Canada, England and Switzerland.
Her painting “Bushido” was accepted to the 50th Florida Watercolor Society exhibition and will still show as a tribute.
“She was the love of my life and my partner and my daughter’s mom,” David Minichiello said. “(I’ll miss) her wonderful love and support and her wonderful personality and humor. We just had such a wonderful time together. Her companionship, her love and support for all of us.”
Alaina Minichello said her mother was her best friend.
“She was an amazing mom and was always willing to listen and help anyone who needed it,” she said.
Kim Minichiello treated everyone with respect and believed in the Golden Rule.
“If everyone would go by the Golden Rule — which is, treat others with kindness and the way she would want to be treated — the world would be a much better place, and she really lived by that, I think,” Alaina Minichiello said.
Kimberly Hunter Minichiello was born in Logansport, Ind., in 1964. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University after studying environmental design and textile design and graduated with honors.
She and her husband, David, were married Nov. 11, 1990, and had one daughter, Alaina.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Kim Minichiello is survived by her brother, Eric Hunter, of Logansport.
A celebration of Kim’s life will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, at the SoBo Gallery, 127 S. Boyd St., Winter Garden. To make a donation to the Kim Minichiello Memorial Award, visit bit.ly/3fQ2v5L and click on Kim’s name.
“She was an incredible woman, and we’re so grateful that she was a part of our lives,” David Minichiello said.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.