Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Carmen Kelley, Key Largo -- part 3 Final



I had my first interview at CSHS in 1997 and I said I wanted to teach in Dropout prevention. I mentioned I was bilingual, that had a Science degree, a Social Science Degree and Art. My first job at CS was at ACE the Alternative center. The following year, I moved to the regular campus and since then, I have taught Physical Science, Marine Science Environmental, earth and Space, Economics, Law Studies, World History, ESOL, Team Sports, Spanish and now the Arts. I teach ceramics1-3, drawing 1-3, Painting 1-3, AP Studio. I teach just fewer than 200 students a day.

The Arts- I earned my first art award in 3rd grade. My science fair poster was also filled with drawings that year. I learned to communicate through art at a young age and found I could trade artwork for candy during my limited English elementary years. I used all of my available electives in middle school and high school for Art classes. My drawings made it to the covers of two yearbooks, the drama sets for plays. I earned money drawing people’s portraits and found it was a great way to invest the money into more art materials.

I was lucky to have two art teachers who had graduated from Pratt Institute in NY. Every summer, I made sure to attend summer school art classes and begged my parents enroll me in a correspondence art course my last year of high school. I took 18 credits every semester in order to make room for ART. When my kids were born, I would find the time to sit during their naps and draw their shoes they had left by the door, the corners in my house and their little faces as they slept.

I needed art in my life and I surprised my husband with an incredible portfolio full of artwork and so we started our partnership. I drew he framed.

My first outdoor Art show was Circus Magercus in Gulfport. 
It was an Outdoor show, that and I had no clue what a professional artist did. I was ready to learn that hanging a clothesline and placing my artwork nice and neat on that line was not going to cut it. I sold one piece and that was the beginning of my weekend shows: Straub Park, Gasparilla, Dunellon, Sarasota, Treasure Island, and more shows that I can name. By the time I had moved to the Keys I had already won quite a few blue ribbons and hung in several galleries and Restaurants. Once again, I needed to start reach out to this new community that had all of those incredible connections to the things I liked to do in life- Marine life, Art and Teaching. I rented a u haul unit and spread out my easels, drafting tables and started to paint. People kept coming in to my studio during the weekend and offering to buy my artwork, so after two years, I had saved enough to put down on a small space next to Melendi Photography.

In 2005 The Key Largo Art Gallery was born!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Five artist joined the Gallery that first year. Harry Sontag Collection, Morna Strengholt, Jacqueline Campa and Lisa Kohler along with my daughter Tere Kelley. 
That year the Gallery featured two Highwaymen- Willie C Reagan and MaryAnn Carrol. 

Two years later they displayed their art again. I have had the pleasure of painting with Mr. Reagan in his home town.  Award winning artist and a keys artist for 50 years, Dan Lawler joined the Gallery that same year. Today, the Gallery represents 29 Award Winning artists.

Giving Back to the Community-
I don’t know which came first my need to donate art to the Community or the Community asking me to donate art for a cause. I just know that I learned to communicate through art and it has been there for me all my life and I now have the opportunity to use art to help others. On the top of my list, children come first, pets and the homeless. We have donated to Habitat for Humanity, Hospice, Marvelous Pet rescue , Humane Society, League for Cancer Research, Locals in need, Rotary fundraisers, Kiwanis, Mariner’s Hospital, Relay for Life, Safety Patrol, and many more. 
This is the 4th year for the CSHS Art Show.

My art depicts a combination of my two cultures, my love for the environment, the colors of a coral reef, the blue greens of the Caribbean waters, royal palms of my past, Guayabera dressed men, the smell of a good cigar, the sounds of the dominoes and the rhythm of salsa music. Memories can’t be erased, imprinted in my mind is my home in Calimete, the rocky intertidal by my grandparents’ home, the sugar cane fields by the countryside and the white sands of Varadero Beach.

I have learned that the past molds the future, experiences you have make you strong, and people you meet build you character.

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