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Ahfachkee artists paint like pros for Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum show

Ahfachkee Art ExhibitBIG CYPRESS — Warm pastels and brilliant paintings make up a three-tiered, 27-piece art wall at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Each evokes works by world-renowned art masters but all are original pieces produced by the hands of Ahfachkee School students.

“They are inspired by famous artists – each work represents a different art lesson,” said the school’s seven-year art teacher Ivette Lopez.

There’s Henri Matisse in the textured cutouts of a Precious Jimmie collage; Wassily Kandinsky in Sarah Robbins’ bold abstract repetitive circles; and Paul Klee in Sontino Billie’s cubist and surreal high rise at dusk.

The children’s own experiences are evident in the use of Seminole colors and glimpses of what their eyes see every day: Emma DiCarlo’s chickee nightscape collage; Diamond Osceola’s jewel-like turtle on crumpled paper; and Tatiana Herrera’s purple patchwork that anchors a monochromatic abstract.

“The students have the Seminole connection of color or patchwork to connect culture with every lesson … there is always the chance to see in their art what they see daily on the reservation,” Lopez said.

Sontino said he was inspired by what he sees off the reservation and by his daydreams about the future.

“I was thinking that I was a famous artist and an office worker and that I could build things like my own house and my own business,” Sontino said. “The violets, yellows, whites and blues come from what I see in cities like Hollywood.”

Nearly a dozen 3-D clay sculptures, enclosed in glass display cases, flank the art wall to complete the show.

Rebecca Fell, curator of exhibits at the Museum, said Lopez was asked several months ago to compile student artworks for the Mosaic Community Gallery, a space that features Tribal artists. Exhibits coordinator Siobhan Millar organized the show dubbed “Kaleidoscope: Ahfachkee School K-12 Art Exhibit.”

“The show has all the moving parts of a full-size museum gallery exhibit, just on a smaller scale. It’s a great way to showcase as many kids as possible, a broad range of styles and a great kaleidoscope of color,” Fell said. The show runs through May 15.

Ned Crouch, a snowbird resident of the Big Cypress RV Resort and a Museum member, said he was sold on the show since it opened March 9. He placed an offer to purchase a watercolor and pastel by first-grader Lavin Billie.

“I own the smallest trailer in the world that needs a little color,” Crouch said. He also said he knows real art when he sees it. Crouch, a retired businessman and author, said he learned a few things from his wife of nearly 50 years, Elizabeth Crouch, a former registrar for art at the White House.

Though Lavin, a first-grader, declined to sell his “Valley With Mountains” piece, Crouch said his wife would have loved the purchase.

“I like Lavin’s impressionistic goulash of the sky. It’s a nice counterbalance to good, solid and strong mountains,” Crouch said. “My wife would have been mightily pleased.”