Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fabulous Flamingo Fete Is Back; for One Art Teacher, There's a Special Meaning

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fabulous Flamingo Fete Is Back; for One Art Teacher, There's a Special Meaning

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer

For Donna Blakely, the Fabulous Florida Flamingo Fete is a healing experience.

Some of its auction items are deliciously tacky, some are whimsical and some are works of art.

Blakely sees her creations as an opportunity to honor her murdered son.

The fete is an auction that provides scholarships for art educators. The Duval Art Teachers Association is sponsoring the third annual fete from 6 to 9 tonight at the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, 4019 Boulevard Center Drive, on the Southside.

The items include large plastic flamingos, wood block art and birdhouses, many decorated in the style of famous artists. Some feature sunflowers a la van Gogh or a cubist head a la Picasso.

Blakely's 5-by-7-inch woodblock art features her son's first name somewhere in the piece. Jackson "Jack" Blakely was 18 when he was murdered at a party in Mayport in 2003.

"It's really sad because he had finally reached a level of maturity that was special," said the Arlington resident, an art teacher at John E. Ford Elementary School in Northwest Jacksonville. "There's not a day or an hour or a minute that I don't think about him. But my art is like a sense of healing for me."

For instance, his name is in the wings of an angel in one piece and among the symbols in another aborigine-style piece.

"I love doing it," Blakely said of participating in the auction. "But it's been harder for me this year because his death is so real now. I'm not in a daze anymore. Most people only do one. I did three because something else kept popping into my head that I could use related to him."

Blakely said she hopes her son, a gifted writer, is "looking down from heaven and saying, 'Wow, Mom.' "

Jack Matthews, who oversees arts programs for the Duval County school system, said the 12 flamingos being auctioned include one converted into a lamp and one that pays homage to the Super Bowl. Matthews did an Egyptian-motif flamingo, covering it in brown paper towels and gold leaf with a lotus blossom design. …

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