Art community rallies around girl’s idea to assist homeless

By Barbara Ferenczi….

Ava Salazar is pictured with one of the sails

Entering its 23rd year, the highly anticipated St. Stephen’s Art Show (SSAS) will be introducing young Ava Salazar’s idea for a one-time unique art exhibit within the 160-artist show during the three-day festival, Saturday, Feb. 19, through Monday, Feb. 21.

Ava, at only 10 years old, aspires to complete her first business and humanitarian project which, through art and the public’s help, will raise money and awareness for homeless in Coconut Grove.

Featured is Grove artist Neith Nevelson, granddaughter of the famous American artist Louise Nevelson. Ava’s humanitarian initiative called “Hope Floats” joins Neith, known for her vivid color schemes, slight variations of three main subject matters — horses, nude women’s bodies and male faces — with nine other renowned artists.

Each artist will donate an original painting on recycled sailboat sailcloth. The pieces will be displayed within a unique exhibit area, during the nationally ranked St. Stephens Art Show, and sold by silent auction throughout the weekend. One hundred percent of the raised funds will assist the homeless and Ms. Nevelson, who today lives in a semi-homeless state of her own.

In advance of the show, a public unveiling of the collection took place on Feb. 3 at the St. Stephens Episcopal Church where Miami Commissioner Mark Sarnoff, Rev. Wilifred (Willie) Allen-Faiella and Daisy Lewis, among others, were in attendance.

“I was having family dinner and talking with my step-mom about cooking for the homeless at church [St. Stephens] and I learned that some even live in old boats patched with recycled wood and sails,” said Salazar, a fifth grade student, when asked how she came up with “Hope Floats.”

“I asked if our art show did anything to sell art for the homeless, and when I learned it didn’t, I came up with an idea to have artists paint sails and sell them to raise money,” Salazar added.

Young Salazar connected her love of art, her church, the St. Stephens Arts Show, and the homeless in a creative endeavor. She created a strong team of adults — step-mom and show director Daisy Lewis; her aunt, Carolina Salazar, who is an artist and assistant curator of Miami International Airport Galleries, and the St. Stephens Art Show Steering Committee.

Weekly team meetings conducted via Skype have allowed young Ava to recruit the artists and secure a sponsor, Bremen Sails, and media partners NBC6, and Majic 102.7 radio.

Neith Nevelson is a Grove icon, noted as a “VanGogh of our time” and known in her heyday to be friends with the likes of Salvador Dali. She now lives a bohemian artist life due to her struggles with homelessness and scoliosis.

Joining Neith are artists Claudia Scalise, Sri Prabha, Charles E. Humes, Mark Osterman, Abraham Camayd, and Carolina Salazar herself. Each artist will paint with oil-based acrylic on custom cut three-foot and six-foot pieces of sail cloth specifically donated for Ava and this project.

“Our theme for the art show is ‘Art is in the Heart,’ and this year’s additional homeless humanitarian art project really resonates with that idea,” Lewis said. “While artists from around the country will again show their brilliance during this amazing art festival weekend, the Hope Floats exhibit, and Ava’s astounding idea and follow through will make a very special 2011 show for me professionally and a very proud moment for me personally,” Lewis added.

The St. Stephens Art Show is presented annually by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, a 100-year resident in Coconut Grove. Known as one of South Florida’s most popular outdoor art festivals, the St. Stephen’s Art Show drives in a crowd of over thousands of art spectators from all over the country and serves as a non-profit event which funds over a dozen outreach programs in Miami.

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