BELLE GLADE — Lake Shore Middle School is the recipient of a special art project by a well-known local artist that’s meant to enhance the learning environment there.
A native of Belle Glade, Lester Finney — known in the Glades for his art and working with at-risk kids, has been spending the last several months painting murals at the Lake Shore Middle School with the help of volunteers.
His goal in painting these murals, Mr. Finney says, “is to calm the spirits of these young students during the day.” He explains how he focuses on using sunset colors in his work as well as the faces of well-known athletes who have played in the South Florida area.
“The murals are designed to capture the students’ imagination and give them a break from social media,” he said.
Lester received a scholarship to play football at McPherson College in Kansas, where he first began studying art. After finishing school, Mr. Finney returned to Belle Glade to practice his profession. He wanted to return to the lake, the birds, the animals, “the Muck” or soil of Belle Glade, which Lester affectionately calls his hometown. It’s the “Belle of the Everglades,” he points out, and in his artwork he seeks to reflect the beauty of Belle Glade area.
The funding that made the murals possible was provided by the NEAT Grant Program from the Office of Community Revitalization of Palm Beach County. Nick LaRose, the local church leader in Belle Glade for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had applied for and received a $10,000 grant from the Neighborhood Engagement and Transformation (NEAT) program from Palm Beach County. The purpose of the NEAT program is to finance groups or organizations seeking to do revitalization projects that improve the quality of life in their communities.
Sarah and Robert Bennett, local members in Belle Glade of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recommended Mr. Finney as an artist to work on the murals at Lake Shore Middle School to Mr. LaRose. Sarah knew him from Glade Central High, where he was her drama student. Sarah felt that Lester would be the right person to use the grant for its intended purpose, to beautify and improve the community. They were right.
At the end of May, Lake Shore Middle School was to unveil the project and celebrate Lester’s work.