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Brief: Artist Donates Painting of Government House

April 8, 2008 — St. Thomas artist Shirley "Mannix" Leonard has given an original acrylic painting of present-day Government House and the surrounding area of Government Hill to the people of the Virgin Islands.
Leonard presented the painting to Gov. John deJongh Jr. recently in honor of her former students at Charlotte Amalie High School, where she taught English and civics. She was known as Shirley Manning while a teacher at CAHS, and was fondly known as "Mannix" by her students.
"Shirley's painting is a beautiful gift to Government House and to the people of the territory," deJongh said, according to a Government House news release. "We will proudly display it here at Government House in honor of her skill and talent as an artist, and in recognition of her love of community. I am most appreciative for the gift of this wonderful piece of original artwork."
Leonard, a self-taught artist, began painting and exhibiting her art in 1991 while recovering from cancer. She was diagnosed in 1991 and began painting while in chemotherapy. She credits her daughter, Michelle Manning, with providing inspiration for the progression of her art, and is especially grateful for her care and support throughout her illness. Leonard's artwork focuses on Caribbean and Asian themes, as well as winter and snowscapes from "an older time."
At one point doctors told Leonard she less than a 10-percent chance of survival.
"After receiving this news, she soon found a strong appreciation for watercolors, colored pencils, crayons and acrylic paints," the release said. "Her talent flourished, and she quickly learned of the depth of her skill and talent as an artist. Art expression became a form of therapy and an outlet for creative energy and healthy living during her cancer treatments. Leonard has been in remission from cancer since 1991."
Leonard has previously donated her paintings to other communities in which she has spent significant time. She has donated her artwork to the people of China and to the people of the state of North Carolina. Leonard is the first and only American artist to have her work officially displayed in China.
In 1995, upon the death of her father, Leonard taught art classes to local youth in China. Soon after, she made a gift of several paintings to the Chinese Government in honor of her students in China. Those paintings still hang in the Great Hall of the People in DanDong, China. In recognition of her winter paintings, Leonard is known as "Xueli" (Shu – yi) in China, which means "Beautiful Snow."
"I love St. Thomas, and it is my honor to donate this special rendering of Government House to Gov. deJongh and to the people of the Virgin Islands," Leonard said, according to the release. "I have many paintings of my beloved Virgin Islands, and this one, I thought, truly expressed my spirit as a servant of the people. It is a pleasure and a high honor for me to present this painting today in honor of my former students at Charlotte Amalie High School."
Leonard continues to exhibit her artwork locally and will showcase her paintings later this year in an exhibition with the V.I. Arts Council.
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