As the holiday season beckons, many will pause to give thanks for the blessings of a good harvest.
For some, gratitude is as simple as celebrating the journey. Of being thankful for the bounty of good intentions, and of experiencing triumphs over unspeakable obstacles.
Such is the case for Claudia Strano.
The native of Curitiba, Brazil, moved to the Sunshine City from Williamsburg, N.Y., not long after Sept. 11. She said she saw the World Trade Center towers come down from her home, just across the East River.
For Strano, moving here was the easy part.
"It's not fun to live in terror," she said. "We moved to paradise," she added, with a reflective smile.
At first she volunteered at the front desk at the Morean Art Center, then she opened the former Central Art Supply Company.
Now, she's putting the finishing touches on an exhibit that opens at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 at the [email protected]
"This is just the tip of the iceberg for me," said Strano.
The breast cancer survivor is using her personal journey to inspire others through her artwork.
Strano's exhibit will feature a series of 72 images. All of the works will be for sale.
"They are going to be priced to sell — they are going to be affordable."
The images reflect a roller-coaster of emotions she endured and overcame, thanks to friends and family.
Listen closely and you'll quickly learn that Strano's goal isn't simply to reach people with cancer, but anyone experiencing a struggle.
Before going through her bout with cancer, Strano says she was a private person. But all that has changed.
"I'm ready to open up," she said. "It's not about me and who I am — it's about who I can help. Who I can touch."
Something beautiful came out of something terrible.
"This is work that will continue — I'm constantly revisiting the days and the nights – what I went through, " she said.
Part of the proceeds will go to the Florida Cancer Specialists and Suncoast Susan B. Komen.
She is also writing a book and plans a show in Brazil.
The book, If You Could Speak My Language, has Strano in the midst of launching a crowdfunding effort to cover the costs of producing the book in English and in Portuguese.
Strano said the artwork for the book's cover, which is part of the exhibit, shows a bright pink sun and has deeper meaning — which goes back to her native Brazil:
"When you see a bright pink sun during sunset, it means tomorrow's going to be a bright sunny day."
• • •
The YWCA Tampa Bay is launching a Community Conversation series Dec. 12 with a focus on racial and social justice.
To kick off the series, Ray Arsenault, author and the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at USF St. Petersburg, will moderate a discussion with Sally Liuzzo Prado. Prado is the daughter of Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman killed in the American civil rights movement.
The free event will be held in the Barnes Pavilion at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, 801 Third St. S.
Refreshments will be served at 5 p.m., followed by the program from 6 to 8. Seating is limited.
Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.