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Glades Artisans

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There is treasure in the Glades, a commodity even more precious than the region's black fertile soil. The richest treasure of the Glades is the indomitable spirit of its people. An undeniably creative spirit is moving through the community, embracing a variety of cultural heritages, rising up through fields of broken dreams and broken promises. It is this hopeful, positive movement towards creative expression and financial independence that Glades Artisans endeavors to support and nurture.

Leaders in the Artisan Community

Donald Neal

Donald Neal is "a natural" artist. His first drawing, at the age of five, was a startlingly photographic rendering of his dog. His artistic ability so amazed his elementary school teachers that he was promoted to Palm Beach County's High School of the Arts in fifth grade. He attended The School of the Arts until he was fifteen, when he began to study art at the college level.

Donald approaches a blank canvas with confidence saying he "just starts painting" and the painting takes on a life of its own. "Mistakes" are not to be feared as they usually turn out to be the best part of the work. Donald is accomplished in a plethora of styles and attracted to a variety of subjects, but he has devoted himself, over the past few years, to the human form. He "loves all women" and says, "Every woman I paint eventually turns out to be Eve."

Donald gave up farming in 1989, when he was named Palm Beach County's "Best Artist of the Year". His work has been shown in many galleries including Old School Square, Delray Beach, FL; the Zora Neale Hurston Roof Garden Museum, Belle Glade, FL; Helander Gallery, Palm Beach, FL; and The Boehringer Gallery, Hobe Sound, FL.

Silvya Puente

Silvya began sewing at the age of ten to avoid wearing hand-me-downs. She couldn't afford patterns, but copied dresses she liked, and by the age of sixteen was designing clothes "for fun" for her sisters and girlfriends.

As a young woman, Silvya "fell in love with a church" in Belle Glade, but her husband told her he couldn't attend the church because all the men wore three piece suits and he couldn't afford one. (That's a new one!) Silvya began saving a little grocery money each week until she had accumulated $38.00 to buy a pattern and fabric for a fine three piece suit. That suit honed Silvya's technical skills and gave her confidence. (She also became an enthusiastic member of the church's congregation!) Sewing and mentoring and managing a team of seamstresses comes easily to Silvya. Now, in addition to sewing just about anything, Silvya is exploring the decorative arts: painting, stenciling, and beading clothing and decorative accessories.

Lester Finney

When Lester Finney smiles, no one can doubt that goodness and mercy exist in the world. He is a warm and engaging leader who is also a formally trained artist with a bachelor's degree in art from McPherson. (He won two scholarships Ā for football and art!) After college, Lester returned to his hometown to teach art at his high school, Glades Central. Troubled teenagers, suspended from school, would wander into his art classes, which soon brimmed to overflowing. To accommodate this unofficial group of students, Lester formed an afterschool program where youngsters could come to draw and paint, listen to music, and just talk. The children, hungry for recognition, and excited about their developing skills, began producing talent shows in the school gym and publishing a newspaper.

Today, Lester has a small silk-screening business and great hopes and big plans for the up and coming generation. Many of his "at risk" youngsters are now successful, productive adults who he encourages to become involved in mentoring programs. Through the production of CDs, video's, posters, and t-shirts, Lester teaches young people to put their God-given talents into creative and wholesome outlets. On one of his CDs, Lester says of the kids "they just need someone to stand and walk by their side." What luck that someone is Lester Finney.

Annie Pearl and David Hill

The Hills are an inspiring team: life-long educators, community activists, and mentors to all who know them. Annie Pearl taught first grade for many years and then was asked to teach her classroom methods to other teachers. David taught fifth grade and had both Donald Neal and Lester Finney as students. The Hills have always been active volunteers, serving on local boards and working on an individual basis to improve healthcare, housing, and representation in the Glades community.

The Hills' organizational and motivational skills are great assets to Glades Artisans. And David has an "art" of his own: barbecue. His specialty is ribs but he'll barbecue anything! He won't divulge any recipes, but has been perfecting his marinades and sauces over the past few years, and plans to bottle and market them soon.

Legal Structure

Glades Artisans has non-profit status in its partnership with Glades Community Development Corporation (GCDC). Glades Artisans' purpose is to offer a creative outlet for the talents of the Glades' people; to provide training when necessary; and to establish a cooperative structure to aid with production and distribution beyond the region. Glades Artisans is consulting with Aid to Artisans, a non-profit organization that provides practical assistance to struggling artisans around the world. Currently, Glades Artisans is funded solely by private contributions.

Fiscal Agent: Glades Community Development Corporation, 401 Southeast 2nd Street, Belle Glade, FL 33430.

For more information, please contact Sandy Mercer or Fitzgerald Limontes at (561) 992-9500.

Glades Artisans' Advisory Board

Logo creation courtesy of Donald Neal

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