An exceptional piece of art work, a mural, several feet long, greets visitors to the Veterans Park Recreational Center's main entrance in Lehigh Acres. Recently installed around the circular wall above the welcome desk, a story of early Florida is told by 16 students from Lehigh and their instructors, Graciela and Glenn Price of Lehigh.
The students have been participating in after school activities at the recreational center and several have chosen pottery art and how to work with clay as a medium.
The mural is a review in fired clay of some of the historic and present day contributions that Native Americans have made to the arts with focus on the Calusa, Seminole and Miccosukee Indians in Southwest Florida.
Past and present donkey is one of the clay models on the mural.
Graciela, who is the founder of The Pan American Alliance for Art, Culture and Industry Inc. is also president and her husband Glenn Price is secretary. Other members of the board of directors include Sara Zak, vice president, Grace Giglio and Annie St.Martin, all interested in the promotion of art.
Graciela and Glenn spent 30 years working in healthcare in LaBelle and she was involved with Catholic Charities there. For 25 years, she has been involved in art and working with others to develop an interest that she feels is very important in a person's life, and especially now when art is not always seen as important in many schools in the nation.
Before the story of the mural is revealed, it should be noted that the following students from Lehigh participated in the massive project. They include: Elizabeth Dellinger, Adrienne Hill, Allison Hoffman, D.J. Johnson, Emily McNeely, Jacob Morales, Emma Mounts, Alexander Ostrander, Albert Raphael, Anthony Raphael, Vincent Raphael, Derrick, Shamia Tillman, Carla Zohlandt, Vincent Kraatz and Sebastion Ostrander.
"These students did a wonderful job and we are very proud of them for their achievements," Graceila Price said. Her husband, Glenn, who also was of great help, prepared the mural for installation on the high wall at the recreation center's entrance.
Participating Pan American Alliance artists include Graciela Price, Glenn Price, Patricia Potter, Pat Papa, Bonnie Wolff, Diane Carmen, Carol Anfinsen, Grace Giglio, Christine Gautreau, Demaree Poole and Barbara Kenworthy.
The Prices originally came from Bogota, Colombia, in South America and went into real estate in the area. They have owned and operated a gallery on Metro Parkway for almost six years teaching people how to make and fire pottery, painting acrylic and the fine art and attention it takes to tell a story. For some time, she said she was even a dentist.
The mural at the Lehigh recreational center tells the story of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon who visited Florida's sandy shores in 1513 and baptized them "Pascua Florida." He found a land populated by thousands of Native Americans living in hundreds of small towns scattered over the country side. Today, the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida struggle to preserve their ancestral heritage in a rapidly changing world, while historians endeavor to learn more about Florida's Pre-Columbian and Archaic civilizations.
Native American artists and craftsmen, both past and present, have made astonishing contributions to our knowledge and appreciation of the arts," Graciela Price said.
"It is our hope that this exhibit will provide visitors with an opportunity to explore some of their artistic contributions to Florida's vibrant history"
Graciela says the centerpiece painting depicts a present day Miccosukee woman working on a patch quilt with her child. Miccosukee speaking women began producing beautiful patchwork designs when the first hand-cranked sewing machines became available.
"Today they have turned their patchwork and costume designs into an expressive fashion statement and true art form. A late 18th century clay pot of Seminole design and woven basket of Miccosukee design are at the bottom of the painting. On the left side is the representation of a carved wooden Calusa Indian amulet and on the far right, a clay pot with a Calusa Indian design.
The left panel and the right panel continue with clay art designs of life among the Indians.
There are pottery art forms of a ceremonial drum, beads, masks a woodpecker painting on a slap of wood, cute little dolls and other examples.
Possibly the most talked about pre-Columbian object from Florida is the Calusa cat excavated in Key Marco. The original, carved in wood and preserved in a mud bank appears to represent a kneeling panther. The pre-Columbian double bowl dates to around 100 A.D. and could possibly be a small ceremonial water drum.
Several informative circulars will be available on the wall rack to the right when you enter the center to explain the art and stories on the panels, including the left panel, left half, the right half of the left panel, the right panel, left half and the right panel.
Clay handbuilding classes are ongoing at the Veterans Park Recreation Center at 55 Homestead Rd. You can learn basic techniques for building and designing ceramic sculptures and apply visual design elements to the ceramic form. Develop original, personal ideas in clay design. Materials for the class are not included in the small cost for the classes on Thursdays. There are also classes for Youth Acrylics.
There are minimum costs for youths ages 6 to 15. It is the same for adults, ages 16 and older. Cost and supplies are not supplied, but must be paid for, but the costs are minimal.
For more information, contact Graciela Price at 239- 369-8392. She can give you all the information you need to join or to bring your children who may be interested in such art forms.
Graciela hopes everyone in the community will take the time to come and visit the latest mural at the center which will be a permanent display.