Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art BA and Psychology with an Italian Minor in Florida International University. Her passions encompass analyzing classical art, studying about the human mind, learning about the Italian culture and teaching children in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children in hospitals or with emotional struggles, and wants to travel to many countries to explore the lifestyle of others.
I volunteered at the Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay for this semester’s service project for the Annual Deering Seafood Festival. With the assistance of three other fantastic interns, we assisted our professor, John William Bailly, with presenting his studio to incoming guests from The Deering Seafood Festival. This specific institution, which with I also did my last service project for, is a historic site filled with natural preserves of Florida and a stunning bay front for guests to enjoy and explore. It includes areas to hike, kayak and tour, while also hosting numerous signature events, programs and classes. In this event, Deering Estate takes pride in hosting this event for it’s 16th time and fills the day with fun activities such as live concerts, games for kids, local shops and special seafood vendors that prepare their delightful meals. The Deering Seafood Festival focuses on serving seafood sensations, and offers seafood served fried, grilled, sautéed, raw and many more options. It also offers chef demo tents, where chefs from Miami offer demonstrations of their recipes. The event also hosted a cultural parade this year, with color filled outfits and walking stilts by fantastic performers.
This specific volunteering opportunity was given through my internship with Professor Bailly as an art studio intern. He asked for us to volunteer at the festival to exhibit his studio to the guests. I selected this opportunity because it is in line with my art major, and while we waited for guests to come, we worked on assisting the professor with his large canvas so he could shave off certain parts of his painting to give it a special effect. It also related to my career in terms of the art environment, such as the art studio. I was able to experience how an exhibition works and what is explained overall to guests when they visit art studios.
I was also curious to find out what The Deering Seafood Festival was about, and with this, I was personally experience one of the events The Deering Estate hosts. Crowds and crowds of people came in, and it was interesting to observe how these historic sites utilize their large green space to fit numerous tents, food stations and even a live stage in front of the bay. With this fun event, it gave me an idea to perhaps thinking of a career in event coordination with state parks.
I connected with this new opportunity through getting to explore the cultural side of The Deering Estate. With its famous seafood event bringing cultures from the Caribbean to display their cuisine, I was able to view the many eclectic seafood platters I never once thought to see. Enjoying a color filled parade with bright tropical colors and sparkly costumes full of feathers, it was like being transported to a Latin carnival. The detailed tribal patterns on the clothing of the men, and loud brass trumpets and beating drums allowed me to view the way Bahamians celebrate in their culture
As well as experiencing a cultural connection, I was also able to connect socially with FIU students and people at the event. Having met three other students from my professor’s study abroad classes, I was able to spend time with them and discuss about what parts of Europe we are most excited about. During our free time, we explored around the event and got to know each other while at the studio and during our lunch break. Also while at the studio, we got to know different guests who were teachers or worked as an artist. We met a teacher who would also take study abroad trips to Europe and told us of the life changing experiences she had. It was a great experience to make new friends at the university and learn more about others by volunteering.
WHERE & WHAT?
When the event began, I headed towards the studio to receive instructions on how to do our work. There, we planned to make our day productive by helping the Professor with his painting while people came in and out of the studio. We had the task of supporting the back of the canvas with cardboard in order for the artist to smoothly sand his oil painting and chaff bits of the paint off for a rough effect. We took turns holding the paper, and sometimes faced miscommunication, not following the movements of the sanding machine. However, we enjoyed the process while the artist worked on his masterpiece and at the end had a satisfying result. The effect gave a pop to the painting and brought the underlying colors from below, which taught me a new art technique.
While we were there, we also took breaks in between and explored different parts of the event. We visited several tents and saw the peculiar things people sold, such as plants, pottery, jewelry and even paintings. While visiting the food tents, there was a wide variety of special dishes, such as grilled blackened fish sandwich and shrimp cocktail. They played different genres of music, such as reggae and rock, with different bands on stage. Overall, we got the best of both the art studio and the outside activities, so it was an eventful day.
From working with sandpaper machine on canvas to picking up a new plant pot from the vendor tents, it was a successful day full of meeting new people, learning new techniques and making new friends. The time schedule was perfect: not too early, not too late, and the weather was in our favor. The Deering Estate’s bay displayed itself majestically as always and was a perfect background for many pictures to be taken. After a long, downfall of two years with no life or excitement due to COVID, it finally seemed like everything was coming back to life again. The students that I volunteered with were amazing and fun, and it was great being able to make new friendships on this day. Our professor as always made it a fulfilling joyful day, and allowed us to explore the event itself with free admission. What didn’t work? Perhaps the times we did not do the job correctly and misplaced the cardboard paper while the artist sanded; next time we should find a bigger piece of cardboard! And of course, the studio was always open, so one of us always had to stay behind, unfortunately not being able to explore everything together. However, there was times we did all go out secretly, and were able to take great pics and discover new things. Out of my internship experience with Professor Bailly, this was definitely one of the best days I’ve ever had.