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Seminoles are center stage at first Hard Rock Cobra Circle event

HOLLYWOOD A few dozen members of the NSU Cobra Circle gathered at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Sept. 5 for a networking event that featured displays of Native art and clothing.

The Nova Southeastern University leadership group includes two Seminole families, those of Melissa Osceola Demayo and France Blais-Billie. The two were on hand with their respective daughters, some who had created art that was on display in the casino’s L Bar area.

The invitation-only membership group is part of the NSU Art Museum. The focus of organizers is to “develop the next generation of leaders in Fort Lauderdale.” It was the first time Hard Rock had hosted an event for the Cobra Circle.

From left, Melissa Osceola Demayo, Dante Blais-Billie, Tia Blais-Billie, and France Blais-Billie gather for a photo at the NSU Cobra Circle event Sept. 5 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. (Photo Damon Scott)

Bonnie Clearwater, the director and chief curator for the NSU Art Museum, was at the event with Miles Forman, the secretary of the museum’s board of governors. Clearwater is also an art historian and curator with a focus on contemporary multicultural art.

Cobra Circle was launched soon after she became director of the museum about four years ago.

“This is an important next generation of leaders group, and it was essential that it was comprised of professionals and creatives from throughout the region and representative of the diversity that makes South Florida so dynamic,” Clearwater said. “It builds relationships between professionals and creatives in order to forge a stronger community, and for knowledgeable and committed young supporters for the museum and the arts.”

Clearwater said it had long been a goal of the group to do an event at the Hard Rock that would feature contemporary design and art by Seminole artists.

A painting by Tia Blais-Billie. (Photo Damon Scott)

The name “Cobra” is used, said Clearwater, because the museum is famed for its collection of post war avant-garde artists known as “CoBrA” – after the international cities where they lived: Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam.

Seminole leaders

The founding members of the group are Osceola Demayo and Blais-Billie.

Osceola Demayo displayed some of her Native clothing at the event.

“With everything I had on display, I was trying to show a more modern approach to traditional clothes, using materials in different applications,” she said.

Osceola Demayo said she started to learn to sew when she was young. After college, she started so sew a lot more and entered several Tribal contests.

Blais-Billie and Osceola Demayo have known each other for years, as their homes are a couple blocks from each other in Hollywood.

Blais-Billie and her daughters, Tia and Dante, have also been members of the Cobra Circle since the beginning. The family has attended several museum events and trips.

Tia had art work on display at the L Bar event, and Dante was the curator.

Dante is a student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, scheduled to graduate next spring with a major in art history and business management. Tia is a recent graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, with a bachelor of fine arts in illustration. She says her work often incorporates motifs of pattern and traditional Seminole culture, alongside themes of identity and family.

“[I] strive to investigate the duality of living as an Indigenous artist in modern America,” Tia said.

One of Donna Frank’s baskets was on display at the event. (Photo Damon Scott)

In addition, Seminole Donna Frank had one of her baskets on display at the event. Of the Panther Clan, Frank is one of the few Seminole women still currently making baskets.

Clarice Demayo, left, and her mother Melissa Osceola Demayo stand between two of Melissa’s designs at the NSU Cobra Circle gathering. Clarice is also wearing one of her mother’s designs. (Photo Damon Scott)

The NSU Art Museum is located at One East Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.


Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at

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