Art for a good cause at the 28th Annual Rotary Art Festival

Walking along Sarasota Beach on a crisp February afternoon, JoAnne Brooks realizes she is only picking up the broken seashells she finds along the shoreline; inspired by the unique beauty of their imperfection. Diagnosed with polio at age four and unable to use her arms, Brooks scoops up the discarded mollusk pieces with her toes and drops them into an awaiting bucket. Charming and unflappable, this 53 year old petite blonde retired federal probation officer from Laredo, Texas, is one of the hundreds of artists who will be presenting her fine jewelry at the 28th Annual South Miami Rotary Art Festival February 25 and 26.

As a public speaker for the Rotarians, Brooks is representative of one of the international organization’s main missions: the global elimination of polio. Rotary talks about it.”

Founded in 1902 by Paul Harris and four colleagues in Chicago, Illinois who would rotate lunch at each other’s homes, the service inspired organization today is millions strong. The Art Festival is one of many fundraising events hosted by the Rotary whose proceeds will go directly back into the aims of the organization.

“Side by Side” by Eileen Seitz

Produced entirely by volunteers of the South Miami Rotary Club, this year’s festival will fund an annual college scholarship for a South Miami student, provide free dictionaries and atlases to atrisk third and sixth graders throughout Miami-Dade County, help fund Caribbean Charities for Children, and contribute to worldwide causes such as the elimination of polio in India and Pakistan.

World traveler and local painter Eileen Seitz has been a regular at the South Miami Rotary Art Festival for 12 years. “I was born in Manhattan in the concrete jungle. When I began traveling and experiencing the bright colors of the tropics while surfing in the Virgin Islands I decided to make Florida my home. I feel I am giving back to people the spirit of living through drawing to remind them of a simple way of life. I am blessed to be able to capture the harmonious beauty of the sunlit tropical colors that surround us everywhere.” The multi-dimensional appearing painting “Peacocks in Paradise” is exuberantly colored in bright pinks, yellows and blues with smiling Hibiscus throughout the landscape and two peacocks almost hiding behind the flowers while the sea beckons in the background. The Giclee (or fine art print, original is sold) of “Side by Side” is a simple wooden dock image from Camden, Maine with colorful canoes resting alongside each other in a tranquil sapphire bay at sunset.

The fine jewelry of JoAnne Brooks makes dramatic elegant statements in bold rich colors like translucent fuchsia, topaz, and bronze. Sleek lines and elegant curves shape the stone-bedazzled necklaces, earrings, and cuffs. Brooks says she knows exactly when the look is right for a client: “Their cheeks get rosy, their eyes sparkle, it looks like they just put on lipstick and a big smile brings out all the true colors.”

The true purpose of the festival is why Chair Wendy Lapidus has devoted over 20 years of service to help make it happen. “The most exciting thing to me about the festival is what we spend the money on. Not only to provide a wonderful experience for festival goers and artists but to fund a full scholarship for an at-risk student and also to contribute to the many other worthy causes Rotary sponsors.

The 28th Annual South Miami Rotary Art Festival is open from 10 am to 6 pm February 25 and 26 on Sunset Drive between US 1 and Red Road. In addition to hundreds of artists from around the country exhibiting, there will be a children’s alley on SW 57 Court, a multinational food court, live music, not for profit association tabling, raffle tickets, and beer and soda sales to benefit Rotary’s charities.

For more information about the festival, visit To find out about Rotary, visit the Rotary booth in front of headquarters on the festival site.


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