Sunday, August 1, 2010

Palos Heights artist and art teacher Maria DeCaprio-Sunta is honore...

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Palos Heights artist and art teacher Maria DeCaprio-Sunta is honore...

Art teacher Maria DeCaprio-Sunta honored Students love her skill and dedication, which were recognized by a Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award By Janice Neumann, Special to the Tribune Maria DeCaprio-Sunta teaches adult watercolor painting in her cozy basement studio in Palos Heights, starting with basic watercolor techniques. She then helps each student decide what to paint –– often the most personal part of painting. "Some people bring very heavy burdens to class. I try to get them engaged enough to let go of the other stuff," said DeCaprio-Sunta, 49. Her ease with teaching is apparent on the walls of her studio, which are covered with pictures of her students with their completed paintings. Get the Chicago Tribune delivered to your home for only $1 a week >> With a following of dedicated former and current students, DeCaprio-Sunta has become something of an art guru in the southwest suburbs. She procures sculptures for the Art Garden in Palos Heights, hosts a local cable show on the arts in Palos Heights, and writes and takes pictures about the arts for a local newspaper. An impressive watercolor painter in her own right, DeCaprio-Sunta has periodically exhibited her work –– which has gone from the traditional watercolor painting to more contemporary watercolor and collages. She also has been a tireless promoters of the arts in the area, helping plan the McCord Gallery and Cultural Center in Palos Park, which opened in 2004, and the Art Garden, which opened in 2008. She serves on the gallery's board and the garden's committee. Most recently, she was recognized for her contribution to the arts with a Humanities Service Award at a ceremony this year in Palos Heights, attended by throngs of her students and supporters. "She's spearheaded a drive to make people appreciate art on a daily level," said Mayor Bob Straz, who nominated DeCaprio-Sunta for the award. Nurturing her students' creativity also is important to DeCaprio-Sunta, who lives in Palos Heights with her husband, John, and daughter, Vanessa, 16. Student Linda Schiappa can't say enough about DeCaprio-Sunta's knack for helping novices overcome their insecurities about painting. There are no painting mistakes in DeCaprio-Sunta's class, Schiappa said. DeCaprio-Sunta also teaches individual children's art classes at the McCord Gallery. "She always encourages you and then tries to help you through so it's not frustrating," said Schiappa, of Palos Heights. It took the death of her brother to teach DeCaprio-Sunta that watercolor painting could be a soothing distraction from heartache. Her brother, Robert F. DeCaprio, was a graphic designer, photojournalist and her artistic soul mate, with the two often discussing art. He died in a bike crash 19 years ago. About 10 years later, DeCaprio-Sunta began teaching watercolor painting, helping her students forget their worries long enough to immerse themselves in painting. Even DeCaprio-Sunta's home reflects a love for art with her paintings, her brother's photographs, her daughter's pictures and pottery, and hand-painted tiles and knick-knacks artfully displayed. After she and her husband purchased their 1960s ranch, she designed a renovation of the home to have nooks and crannies and plenty of wall space for the displays. "She's done so much for the arts in the southwest suburbs," said Nina Thorp, one of DeCaprio-Sunta's students, who lives in Palos Park. "I think she's just been a wonderful asset to the community." Get news, sports, and entertainment alerts on your mobile phone >>...

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