Hit the mother lode of art

A show will raise money for and awareness of breast-feeding advocates.

By JANE MADDON WELCH, Times Correspondent
Published August 24, 2007


Twenty minutes after Lucia Puertas entered the world, she was comfortably nursing at her mother's side at Morton Plant Hospital.

"She latched on right after birth. The instinct was just there," said new mother Bridgette Puertas.

Puertas, 29, always knew she wanted to breast-feed. She joined La Leche League of Clearwater a month before delivering Lucia in December to get support and talk to like-minded women.

"My mother and grandmother were not able to breast-feed, so that information wasn't passed on to me," Puertas said. "La Leche has been great."

To help spread the word, Puertas volunteered to organize an art exhibit celebrating World Breast-feeding Week and raising awareness of and funding for La Leche. The exhibit celebrates the mother-child relationship and features works from her and her husband, artist Diego Puertas of Dunedin, as well as other local and national artists.

"The whole reason for World Breast-feeding Week is to advocate for breast-feeding and the huge benefits it offers," said Susan Graham, a coordinator of the art exhibit and a leader of La Leche League's Clearwater chapter.

Graham, 39, has been a member of chapters across the country, including those in Missouri, Colorado, Arkansas and, for the past five years, Florida. She joined the league 12 years ago and breast-fed her three daughters, now 11, 8 and 3.

La Leche League is a nonprofit international organization whose mission is to help mothers breast-feed through support, education and promotion of healthy development. According to La Lache's Web site, World Breast-feeding Week is celebrated in more than 120 countries.

"La Leche League is a very grass-roots movement started 50 years ago by seven women who had a successful experience with breast-feeding," Graham said.

The opening gala tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Clearwater is designed to be child- and baby-friendly. Admission is free. Most of the artwork will be for sale. The exhibit will remain open until Sept. 5.

Photographer Autumn Grossman of Palm Harbor plans to attend the gala with her 17-month-old son, Alex. She contributed several photos to the exhibit that capture the breast-feeding experience. Grossman, 26, said being a member of La Leche League enhanced her relationship with her son.

"I did a lot of research and knew I wanted to breast-feed Alex," Grossman said. "I love it. The bonding has been wonderful."

'Arte de La Leche'

What: An exhibit focused on maternal bonding in commemoration of World Breast-feeding Week, a fundraiser for La Leche League.

When: Opening reception is from 7 to 9:30 tonight. Show will continue through Sept. 5. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

Where: Octagon Arts Center at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2470 Nursery Road, Clearwater.