MINISTERIAL MUSES— Doors of Reckoning—2.15.2019

Posted February 16th, 2019 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
Comments Off

I was introduced to the art of Missionary Mary Proctor by Zoe and Jerry Von Averkamp. She was the first artist they invited to show in their gallery, Divine Excess Folk Art, in the Village of the Arts here in Bradenton. In truth, her work introduces itself. It speaks to the viewer from the walls in the universal language of symbols. It stirs feelings and calls back memories. It generates a sense of being connected to a larger whole and, when necessary, it heals.

Mary was born to 11-year-old Pauline Cooksey in 1960. She was raised by her grandparents, a mixed-race couple. She tells us that her white grandfather was “hated by his own peoples” but stayed with her black grandmother anyway, “stood through the test”. As for her grandmother, Mary has immortalized her in her art, telling viewers of the woman’s everyday struggles, steady values, and enormous faith.

Mary herself became pregnant in the ninth grade. (“I messed up. I just wouldn’t listen to my grandmama.”) She dropped out of school to care for her child and the additional children that her mother had produced. After her grandfather died, her grandmother began to struggle with alcohol addiction. (“She was a good woman … but she had a rough time.”)

At seventeen, Mary met and married Tyrone Proctor (“a good man”). They moved to Tallahassee. He became a fireman. She became a nurse. She left nursing after a decade and opened a day care center. Five years later, she began devoting her time to scavenging for things to sell at a local flea market. It wasn’t long before she opened Noah’s Ark Flea Market (now the American Folk Art Museum & Gallery—Where Kids and Art Come First), filling her yard with furniture, dishes, jewelry, buttons, and beads.

Then in 1994, her life changed forever. Her grandmother, aunt, and uncle died in a house fire. She had a vision the night it happened. (“I saw light going all the way up into heaven.”) Fighting suicidal darkness in the aftermath, she remembered her grandmother’s words: “If you want an answer, there is such peace surrounding a tree.” So she sat under an old oak tree with her bible and prayed for thirty days until a light came over her and she heard a voice say, “Get a door and paint”.

I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved. —Gospel of John

So paint she did. And then she added salvaged objects to the doors (and windows) to add dimension. The paintings often include spiritual messages and observances. Most often the words speak to the strength of women surviving duress, hinting at anger without ever letting it overtake the work. The art is powerful. Not everyone is comfortable with the rawness of it. (I can’t help but remember the early days of Basquiat’s career, when he was painting from the gut onto salvaged materials.) Her work, despite its challenging, straightforward content, has found its way into homes, galleries, and museums all over the country.


It was in the Baltimore Visionary Art Museum of Outsider and Folk Art that Zoe and Jerry discovered Mary. The museum was featuring their collection of Mary’s art doors. When the couple realized that she was a Florida folk artist, Jerry (now deceased) suggested that they drive up to Tallahassee to meet with her. They became instant friends at that first meeting. They purchased Mary’s Blue Willow Plate Story door, which Zoe still has in her studio. Zoe speaks of Mary’s beautiful soul and about how much she treasures her friendship.


As the world seems to be getting more and more insane, Missionary Mary L. Proctor continues to paint a compassionate universal truth that reminds people of who they truly are.

© 2019 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Village of the Arts—reprinted from Retailing Insight

Posted December 20th, 2018 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Mid-Town Manatee?
Comments Off

Written for Retailing Insight’s January/February Issue.

COMMUNITY as Business Practice
Village of the Arts, Bradenton FL

Like a lot of people who have been involved with the Village of the Arts, I believed that Herbie Rose originated the concept of a creative community in the heart of Bradenton. A successful international watercolorist and art educator, his art studio was in a downtown neighborhood that was being overrun by drug dealers. It turns out that Bill Theroux, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority at the time, approached Herbie with the idea of an artist’s colony for countering the neighborhood’s deterioration. The rest is history. Herbie put the word out, and with the help of his artist wife Graciela Giles, he set in motion a project that is thriving two decades later. I am not alone in thinking that only Herbie could have accomplished this unique undertaking. With him at the helm, the idea of the Village of the Arts elicited excitement and support. Jo Ellen Gorris, recorded the beginning of it all in May 1999.

“…there was a meeting at the Bradenton Herald to see if there was interest in an Art Colony. There was an overflow crowd. Herbie Rose suggested we meet again the next night … The next night there was another oveflow crowd … it was decided to form an Artist’s Guild.”

Jo Ellen also recalls that Graciela sent out a letter to find those neighbors who were interested in selling and created a list of available properties for the Artist’s Guild. Soon Graciela bought a house behind Herbie’s studio. Then baker Bonnie Brown bought a property up the street. It was November 9, 1999 when Jo Ellen bought her house two blocks south of Graciela. Soon, the rundown properties in the neighborhood seemed to magically turn into colorful houses filled with unique creations. But it wasn’t magic. It was Herbie’s iron will.

Anna D’Aste remembers that when she was working to get the Grand Opening organized, the people that she contacted for help were often ready to hang up until she mentioned Herbie’s name; then the floodgates opened with whatever she needed. Linda Brokema told me that when she was restoring her house and trying to get her quilting business up and running, she often despaired. “I don’t think I would have made it if Herbie and Graciela hadn’t come by every week to cheer me on .”

I went to some of the early Guild meetings. I was always in awe of the quiet way Herbie managed to steer a group of freewheeling spirits on a steady course toward success. If the cross talk got too loud, Herbie would tap the end of his pen on the table a few times and suddenly there would be silence. He managed to stay above the inevitable bickering and laid a foundation of cooperation and attention to quality that turned a dying area into one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. Elliott Falcione, Executive Director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau describes today’s Village of the Arts this way: “Visitors to the City of Bradenton are often blown away by the galleries, studios, cafes and fashion found within the vibrant and welcoming Village of the Arts. We are proud to be home to the state’s largest (and most unique) live/work art community and promote how significantly it contributes to the overall richness of our Arts and Culture scene. Thanks in large part to the Village of the Arts and those working towards its continued development, the Bradenton Area has emerged as one of the growing arts centers in the South, offering quality and diversity of opportunities, attracting thousands of visitors and generating millions of dollars in economic impact on an annual basis.”

Herbie died in 2017. Leadership of the Village had long since passed to others, many of them newcomers. There have been, and continue to be, growing pains. Conflict is inevitable in the midst of such a creative environment, but Herbie’s sense of community support continues to be the thread that weaves through the ever-changing fabric of the Village of the Arts.

After wrestling for months with how best to describe the sense of community in the Village of the Arts, I finally decided that the best way to communicate that is to let some of the Villagers speak for themselves. I have presented a small sampling of the Village businesses. What they all have in common is their commitment to the future of the Village and each other.

Jo Ellen Gorris is the unofficial matriarch of the Village. Her emotive clay people have found homes around the world. Anna D’Aste is not only a premiere clay artist, she is a leading art educator. She was instrumental is helping to get the Village up and running. Zoe von Akerkamp is the go-to place for authentic Florida folk art (like Missionary Mary Proctor and Hugo). She inaugurated the Village’s annual Night of the Skeletons celebration (which carefully adheres to the traditions of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival). Guy Cannata is the longest existing restaurateur in the Village. He parlayed his Sicilian background, his love of cooking, and a beautiful Old Florida house into a destination restaurant. Chris Turner, artist and art educator, supported her artist husband Gordon in creating a studio and gallery in the Village. Since his death, she has come into her own as a key purveyor of inventive works of art. Linda Brokema’s Bits and Pieces has blossomed from a small antique and quilting business into the area’s definitive quilting resource. Preston Whaley Jr.‘s Yoga Arts provides life-changing instruction, especially for people with serious physical limitations. Jean Farmer is relatively new to the Village. Her metal art works and intriguing bottle cap art, coupled with her enthusiasm, quickly made her a welcome addition.

The dynamic story of the Village of the Arts is just beginning. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston sums it all up this way: “Arts and culture are critical pieces of Bradenton’s DNA. The Village of the Arts is our showcase, and has been for more than a decade. Herbie Rose’s legacy lives.”

Anna Jedrziewski is a new consciousness author and consultant, as well as founder and director of Spirit Connection New York , Inc. ( Photos © 2018 Inannaworks

Ministerial Muses—4.28.2018—Santa Muerte

“They shouldn’t be disrespectful to Santa Muerte,” she heard a voice say. She had come out with her morning coffee and discovered that the totem to the saint which she had created, with a metal cross, roses, acorns and skulls, had been bent sideways during the night. She knew it wasn’t the wind. The pole it was attached to was too slender to offer much resistance.

“No,” she thought, “it was the young dealers across the street.” They had a habit of vandalizing her property in small ways. (Killing a plant with transmission fluid. Breaking a window in a shed. Leaving an old tire in her driveway.) The bend in the pole looked like it had been made by somebody grabbing it and hanging off it. “Santa Muerte shouldn’t be messed with,” she heard.

There were times when she could see an image of “Grandpa”, the father to the young dealers, laughing at her. She always knew when she saw it that they were targeting her again. This time they had targeted the totem she had created to request Santa Muerte’s energy of protection for her property. (A raised middle finger to the folk saint if there ever was one.)

She shouldn’t have been surprised that they were willing to challenge the Saint of the Abyss. The drug culture had come to believe that Santa Muerte worked for them, no spirituality involved. They “worshipped” her with the same violence that they used in business. And their wrath was swift when she disappointed them. They thought themselves to be the purveyors of destruction. They considered Santa Muerte to be their handmaiden.

The truth is that energy is not negative unless human thinking perceives it that way. Death was walled off when society began embracing the fear of women. Women gave birth, so it must somehow be their fault that people die. And dying is a bad thing, right? We are only now beginning to question the validity of that line of thought. Crops must die in the fall and return their unused nutrients to the soil to prepare for a new crop in the spring. Santa Muerte of the Abyss brings rejuvenation and prosperity. But sacrifice is required. For every step forward, something must be left behind. We must dance with death in order to truly embrace life.

When a new step up in awareness is approached, there will be a loss. Something valued by the aspirant will be taken away, a favorite piece of jewelry, a favorite scarf, a treasured skill, even a desired person. The aspirant must then choose. Either keep looking to the horizon for what is about to emerge, or turn back and focus on resentment for what is gone. It sounds simple enough but it is the difference between moving forward and having to go back to the beginnning in the next life and try again.

The bent pole bothered her but she didn’t seem to be able to make herself deal with the task of straightening it. There was an energy around it that pushed back. “Let them see what they did.”

She wasn’t home when “it” happened — and it was weeks before she even found out that “it” had happened. But suddenly she was overcome with the need to straighten out the pole that Santa Muerte”s totem was attached to. There was a sense of relief when it was finally righted. She expected it to be vandalized again, but oddly it was left alone, upright and intact.

Then she approached a neighbor one afternoon for a favor and found out that one of the young dealers had been badly injured riding his motorcycle (just before she had straightened out Santa Muerte’s pole). His stepson was following behind on a scooter. He turned to see where the child was. It was on a curve, a curve that the dealers had parked full to purposely create a traffic hazard for law-abiding neighbors. The car, who probably didn’t see him coming because of the mess on the right-of-way, hit him. It happened at the end of her driveway. The driveway that she had to back out of knowing that she couldn’t see cars/trucks approaching and they couldn’t see her because of the constant mess the dealers had in the right-of-way.

The people that she talked to didn’t know whether or not the young dealer survived, but the crash pad that he and other dealers inhabited up the block was vacated by all of them the next day. Was there an inter-cartel war going on? Did one of the neighbors finally reach the end of their rope with the constant abuse and take matters into their own hands? (Someone had driven into the young dealers’ yard awhile back to run over a vicious dachshund they let run loose terrorizing the neighborhood.)

Sometimes an accident is just an accident. But her legs had gone weak under her when her neighbor showed her a picture of the young dealer lying at the end of her driveway with paramedics on either side of him. She had asked to be protected from the negativity. She was careful not to ask that it be sent back from whence it came. She had left “how” up to Santa Muerte.

Excerpted from The Fairie Encounters © 2018 Anna Jedrziewski and InannaWorks

Ministerial Muses—4.8.2018—Arts&Eats

Comments Off

Arts and Eats is closing.

I’m desolate to be losing one of my favorite restaurants, but I’m so glad that Jim and Donna are going to scale back on the stressful pursuit of business advancement and begin adding personal enjoyment time to their lives (like a trip to the Galapagos in September).

Star Chef Jim Copening (941-243-1492) will be available for private engagements.

Artist/entrepreneur Donna Slawsky hasn’t let on to what she will be up to but I’m sure it will be something exciting.

Arts and Eats’ grand finale will be their special Mother’s Day spread. They are booking up quickly for their last month. If you haven’t experienced Jim’s down-to-earth gourmet creations, I suggest you make a reservation soon. The Village of the Arts will miss them, but those of us who have been regular customers will be looking forward to the next chapter.

This husband and wife team represent the entrepreneurial best of what Bradenton has attracted the past few decades. I hope the developer overlay that is sweeping over Manatee County now has left some room for motivated, high-level talent like theirs to find a foothold here going forward.

© 2018 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Ministerial Muses—3.11.2018

Posted March 11th, 2018 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
Comments Off

Celebration of Herbie Rose!

Mother Nature held the rain at bay yesterday as people gathered in The Village of The Arts to celebrate the life and memory of Herbie Rose, premiere Florida artist and visionary founder of The Village of The Arts.

Village restaurants contributed food for a spectacular fest.

Graciela Giles, Herbie’s wife, thanked everyone for coming and began the festivities by introducing Argentinian dancers to get things off to “lively” start.

Then Graciela invited people to come to the mike and share their thoughts about Herbie. The heartfelt, and often humorous, remarks reflected Herbie’s quiet and inspiring touch. Among those speaking were Mayor Wayne Poston…

…and Jo Ellen Gorris, one of the first artists to embrace Herbie’s vision for our extraordinary artists’ community.

Herbie’s legacy is just beginning to be recognized. As an artist, teacher, and community activist, there are few who can match his contribution to Bradenton and to Florida. May his memory become stronger as the years go by.

Ministerial Muses.2.11.18

Posted February 10th, 2018 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Mid-Town Manatee?, Ministerial Muses
Comments Off

Changes in a changing neighborhood

Much to my relief, Jeff Wallace is back next door running our historic neighborhood auto repair business. Legally, it’s Jeff’s Auto Repair now, but it will always be Jack’s Auto Repair to those of us who have lived here for decades.

Jack Wilson founded the business back when my grandparents were living here. He still comes back from West Virginia every winter to help out next door. Jack hired Charles Godshall and sold him the business when he retired. Charlie hired Jeff and sold him the business when he retired. Jeff added the Tuesday Night Book Club, a funky lot who meet once a week and make the neighborhood a safer place after dark. Once the unlicensed junk auto businesses started rolling over the neighborhood a decade ago, making things as unsightly and unlivable as they could for pre-existing homeowners and small businesses, Jeff finally decided it was time to move to Georgia. But the ties to Old Florida aren’t easily broken and in a few years he was back. A year ago he was able to move back to the original Jack’s Auto property, next door to me. The Tuesday Night Book Club is meeting next door again!

Jeff’s renewed presence is such a gift to me. He doesn’t sell drugs or stolen auto parts (no gang members dropping by). He’s a terrific mechanic who’s always busy with legitimate work. He runs a licensed business, subject to inspection, and he pays taxes, lots of taxes. His employees don’t wear electronic ankle bracelets or drive vehicles with window-rattling stereos and expired license plates smeared with mud. He doesn’t park heavy commercial vehicles on the public right-of-way nights and weekends and leave the engines running for hours making noise and gas fumes. He doesn’t let old, noisy industrial compressors run outdoors for hours and hours. He doesn’t pour toxic waste products along my property line after dark. He doesn’t abuse his guard dogs to make them vicious and then let them run loose in the neighborhood to poop in other people’s yards so he doesn’t have to clean up after them.

But it wasn’t any the above things that prompted me to write this Musing. It was, rather, another historic event. A few months ago, Jeff hired the first woman mechanic in this “good old boy” neighborhood.

He hired Abbie right out of school and is training her. And—I admit much to my feminist surprise—so is the original “good old boy” Jack Wilson. She’s already starting to pull her own weight, with high praise from both her mentors. I happened to be there last week when she finally got a car with a difficult problem started. Jeff said, “I’d tell you ‘you’re the MAN’ except I can’t”. Abbie and I quickly agreed that we both had enough ego-strength to accept being called “the MAN” if it was meant as praise. To which Jeff replied, “Grab the other end of this while I tighten it, Abbie …”

©2018 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Garden e-Diary—2.19.17

Posted February 19th, 2017 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Garden e-Diary, Manatee County, FL, Mid-Town Manatee?
Comments Off

It’s been a long time since I updated you about the Goddess Garden and its surrounding plant beds. My life has been complicated for awhile  and the Garden e-Diary is one of the things that fell by the wayside. I’m in the process of reorganizing now and trying to get back on track with some of the things I have neglected.

The bougainvillea I planted in the center of the front bed is thriving and blooming happily. The oleander that I divided and replanted in the hexagonal beds on either side of the bougainvillea is doing well also.

In addition to being winter, we’ve had mostly dry conditions in Bradenton for the past few months. Some of my plants are struggling BUT, of course, the weeds are proliferating. The Mango Bed at the west end of the front bed is a good example. I weeded it throughly before I left town on Thanksgiving. It was overgrown again when I returned.

I managed to make time to weed it again before I left town, carefully pulling weeds around the ornamental peanut vines that are meant to be ground cover. The peanut vine has thinned considerable with the drought conditions, but is spreading at the same time. I’m hoping for it to really take over this next growing season. I also trimmed the tips off the little mango tree to encourage it to bush rather than sprawl. I added additional mulch in between the plants I’m trying to encourage (after I took the photo below).

I got the weeds back under basic control before I left town. I will be spending more time at the Florida center this spring and hope to really get things shaped up. I will keep you posted!

Ministerial Muses—2.12.17

Posted February 12th, 2017 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
Comments Off

Yesterday’s fundraising sale at Herbie Rose’s studio in the Village of the Arts was a HUGE success!

Volunteers helped water colorist Graciela Giles, Herbie’s wife, get an incredible amount of Herbie’s paintings hung. Local restaurants provided food — and people turned out in droves all day to help support this Manatee mentor in his later years.

Herbie laid the foundation for the growth of creativity here in Bradentnon. We see the manifestation of his vision in the Village of the Arts and the soon-to-begin playful expansion of the South Florida Museum.

I attended the event with Jo Ellen Gorris, owner of one of the original 13 Village studios (Clay in the Garden). She told me that she watched Herbie’s painting show on PBS years ago.

As Bradenton works to put itself on the map as a city of the future, it’s nice to know that we aren’t forgetting the people who have brought us this far.

Ministerial Muses—2.5.17

Posted February 5th, 2017 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
Comments Off

My friend Jo Ellen and I went to a lecture at The Ringling Museum last Tuesday. Anne Patterson was talking about installing Pathless Woods, her fun and inventive room-sized work of art.

If you haven’t experienced this wonder of ribbon and light, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s touchable art that seduces, entertains, and surprises. Bring your inner child if you really want to experience it completely. This is not an intellectual enterprise, despite the fact that Patterson’s credentials are stellar.

I first discovered this special art piece two months ago when my friend Bernie Popovich and I visited the museum to see the new Asian Wing. A security guard told us not to miss Pathless Woods and we didn’t. We were both enchanted.

Hearing about how Patterson, originally schooled as a set designer, stumbled upon this vision, and then figured out how to implement it, only added to my appreciation of the piece. The fact that local volunteers and USF students were involved in the installation made it even more special.

Patterson is working on an installation for Cincinnati next, different but equally exciting. If you enjoy creative experiences, I suggest you keep an eye on her. For me she is not only a compelling artist but someone who has turned her creative skills into a modern-day ministry. (Children lie on the floor and look up at the ribbons floating over head. Adults are now following their example. Enough said.)

Many thanks to The Ringling for bringing this artist to our attention and for giving us the opportunity to engage her one-on-one!

Garden e-Diary–5.8.16

I planted a small Blue Daze at the front of Goddess Garden about a year ago. When I got back to town this time, it was almost a goner. I started watering it every morning and slowly it began producing new leaves. This morning it surprised me with SIX little blue flowers!

Six is the number of serenity. Blue flowers are said to be miraculous. I’ve been feeling a lot of stress since I’ve been back because it seems like there is more that needs done can I can manage, and I’ve been telling the guides and the faeries that I need a miracle. It looks like one is on the way. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.