Inspired by Her Career with Crayolas and Finger Paints

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A 32-year elementary school teaching career left Ava Janes with plenty of smudge marks and fond memories.

After retiring from the Broward County School System in 1979 Ava was hired by Worden’s Art & Frame company, because much like her classroom career, she rightly figured it would be an enjoyable job.

“They asked me if I was artistic,” said Ava who taught first, second and third graders from 1947 to 1979. “I told them I had more than 30 years of working with Crayolas, finger paints and poster paints, and asked would that count?”

It would count and Ava spent the next decade at the popular Lighthouse Point shop on a magical artistic adventure on which she is still travelling.

The South Miami native’s needlepoint and counted cross-stitch artwork, as well as floral and landscaping paintings adorn her second floor East Lake apartment, but perhaps her shining achievement is a Christmas Village, depicting a snowy downtown decked out for the holidays, with many of the pieces made of plastic canvas stitching.

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Ava’s colorful town bedecks the lobby in East Lake’s second floor lobby for all to see and enjoy.

“A lot of people might find stitching together all the pieces as tedious, but I find it most enjoyable,” she said. “When I was nine or 10 I got curious about my Mother’s sewing. Of course, back then she would sew clothes for the whole family. So that Christmas I got a Singer sewing machine and I guess I was on my way. I’ve always enjoyed doing things with my hands.”

That enjoyment would come in handy, literally, as she and her seven siblings would help work the family’s 40-acre tomato farm 70 miles west of Miami in what is now know as Everglades City. It would be great preparation for her professional career in classrooms at Oakland Park, Croissant Park and Floranada elementary schools.

“I absolutely loved teaching the little kids,” she said. “But if someone would’ve told me that teaching them art appreciation would have led to me doing what I do, if you can call it being an artist, I would’ve have thought them crazy.”

Who knew that all the while Ava was inspiring young minds she was taking herself on an exquisite experience as well?

— Rob Seitz, Public Relations/Events Specialist