Church bursting with artists who give back

MANATEE -- The Rev. Chris Schmidt of Parrish United Methodist Church says he is so untalented at art that he got a “C” in the subject in high school, the lowest grade he ever earned.

“I learned a trick for drawing trees,” he said. “But everything else, forget it.”

But Schmidt hasn’t given up hope that one day he will be able to create something beautiful with a drawing pencil in his hand.

That’s because it happened to Parrish United Methodist Church member Mary Lynne Powers who couldn’t draw a stick figure into her 50s and is now creating works of art in charcoal, pencil and pastels.

Parrish United Methodist Church, which is affectionately known by its members and friends as “the church at the flashing light” near downtown Parrish, has four artists showcased in a free art show presented by Iberia Bank from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 11255 U.S. 301 N., Parrish.

“This show that we put together with 25 to 30 pieces of art is just skimming the surface of the talent at the church,” said Diane Barrie, vice president and branch manager of Iberia Bank and also a church member.

The bank’s show will feature the thoughtful pastels of Powers, the haunting watercolor of Donald Burkhardt, the impressionistic landscapes of Polly Tetrault and the naturalistic drawings of Polly Boston.

All four will be on hand to talk about their work, Barrie said.

Tetrault, who volunteers her talents as a Parrish United Methodist art teacher, is the only one of the four who doesn’t attend the church.

“Although the church has a remarkable number of artists, Parrish itself is quite a talent-filled area,” Tetrault said. “When I start talking to people I meet I am surprised to find they paint and they are good. And we’re not just talking artsy-craftsy.”

Burkhardt is a retired pastor and served as the church’s interim pastor before Schmidt arrived a year ago.

He is described by Barrie as an accomplished artist who eagerly gives of his time to teach watercolor to anyone who would like to try it.

Boston is an accomplished artist and musician who gives Christmas programs at her River Wilderness home besides teaching art at the church.

But of all the artists, no story is quite as compelling as that of Powers, a soft-spoken woman who never even put a pencil to drawing paper until six years ago.

She was caring for an elderly man at the time.

“I saw a book on sketching in his apartment,” Powers said. “He encouraged me to take a drawing class. I had never had talent or even interest until that moment. I was such a poor artist I couldn’t even draw stick figures.”

Her beginnings were humble. But, gradually, she found she could not only reproduce photographs but capture something that was in them. She later trained with Joanna Coke who teaches pastel and watercolor at ArtCenter Manatee.

Now, six years later, art is pouring out of Powers. She says she could paint or draw every day if she had the time.

“The really special thing about our church is the most wonderful feeling of family within our members,” Powers said. “Our membership supports each other and welcomes new people. That support is where the art comes from. I have never been to a place that has affected me like this place. I feel warm and happy and loved.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.