Thursday, August 30, 2012

Picket Fence Commission Represents a Life of Love, Honor, and New Beginnings

You've seen the construction wall pickets surrounding SHAMc, right? Those beautifully painted fence posts that SHAMc friends and Safety Harbor folks purchased and painted to support our future art and music center?

Yes! You know what I'm talking about!

This story is a little different from the ones we've previously posted about fence posts. This story .... well, let's start from the beginning, back to the place Sam Lima was born and raised until age nine, when he said goodbye to friends and family and moved to the United States with his parents -- to a completely new world.

"We went directly to northern New Jersey to be with my uncle," Sam remembers. "It was a surreal and different experience.  In Cuba everything had been rationed; controlled."

Although Sam loved living in the US, he had to learn a new language, meet new friends, and adapt to the customs of a  new culture. He adjusted well, though. He played soccer and found ways to express his feelings through poetry.

He wrote poems throughout the challenges of middle and high school and later, in college, he saw several of his poems published. "Poetry was my escape," Sam says.

Sam grew up, joined the Marines in 1982, and married Anne. It was this poem, Transfiguration, written by Sam when he was about twelve years-old, that Anne wanted to incorporate into a special birthday gift:

by Sam Lima

From the root
of a torn heart
Grew a tender
little palm
that before it
could mature
Was transplanted
on a foreign shore
Now the growth
has stopped for sure
And from a
Dried out palm to be
Grows a tender new oak tree
that will stand for the new shore

"That poem is a very simplistic expression of what was going on through my young experience of embracing an adopted nation," says Sam. 

Anne wanted something special for Sam's birthday, and when she saw the painted fence posts throughout town, she knew she had found just the right gift. She called Kiaralinda, who recommended fellow Garden Fairy and artist Shannon O’Leary-Beck. 

The Limas are really inspired by Peter Max's art," Shannon says. "That excited me because I love colors."

Shannon worked out a design on paper, bringing into it all the aspects of Sam's personality through Anne's description of him and his interests. Well, that, and the poem.  "I had to make the story work. I tried to make sure there was a flow to it," Shannon says. "Beginning with how he came from Cuba, and the tree of life; the tree of change coming out. Then with his military background and his love of the U.S., I brought in the Statue of Liberty."

Shannon describes how she saw all the elements come together, like when you see a greeting card and there is a pathway leading through different drawings or scenes. "Like a pathway of life," says Shannon. 

Using colorful acrylic paint, Shannon created the posts to be a bright representation of Sam's life. "I usually do indoor artwork," she says. "The roughness of the fence is not typical for me. It was really fun."

"I wrote that poem almost thirty-four years ago," Sam says, ""I've never been given a gift that's had such an impact."

Shannon OLeary-Beck at work
Shannon O'Leary-Beck takes commissions for murals ("big art"), reproductions, Venetian plasters, custom paintings and more. To see more of her work visit
or to get in touch with her through e-mail .


Anonymous said...

thx for sharing, Laura. Despite my few meetings with Shannon, was apparent to me that not only is she a delightful person, she's a real talent. Kudos Shannon!

Margo in Largo

D.Klein said...

This is a great testament to the power of art when it collides with the spirit it belongs to. I know Shannon and her murals, and have loved both since I first met them. I don't know Sam, but obviously Annie loved him enough to see AND feel that art belonged with his words. When that much thought goes into a gift, well, that's better than a thousand "likes" on Facebook. This project is high praise for everyone involved. And THAT is what art does...and THAT
is what SHAMc will do for everyone who visits. It will be a conduit to things unimaginable.