SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Asala is a national group that focuses on African American History and Culture. The Sarasota Chapter has the largest membership in the country.
Asala member and Artist, Eleanor Merritt says, "Sarasota has attracted so many African Americans from New York, Chicago, Detriot, and Ohio because of the arts scene here."
Asala has an art exhibit at Art Center Sarasota this month.
Eleanor Merritt and her husband retired here in 1983.
"We wanted a special place to retire to. We found it here, with a wonderful focus on the arts, the theatre, the opera and the museum."
Eleanor spent 30 years as an artist and educator in New York.
"I taught art, art history, making art and I also graduated to teach on the junior college level at C.W. Post and Hoftra University"
She taught during the difficult days of racial segregation, and then the turmoil of integration.
Eleanor says, "In my teaching career at one time I was the only person of color in the classroom. I made my way in school systems that I integrated, inspired by what my parents always told me. "You can be anything in the world you want to be. Just carry yourself with grace and confidence. It has served me well." She goes on, "When I was a youngster growing up from the age of 5, my parents recognized the fact that I had talent, and encouraged me and made me feel that I had worth and the ability to be an artist, to be an educator, and their belief as sustained me through out my life."
Her art is renowned. Many collect her work.
She says, "My work is always figurative. Some way there is always a a figure in my work."
Recently she had a retrospective of over 60 years of her work. And her two daughters and grand daughter live in Sarasota. Her life lesson.
"To be happy with what you do, to be focused in your life, on all things positive. To move on with your life, finding what makes you happy and what gives you joy."