Around The Bay Art Education Philanthropy

Painter Jane Bunker’s crusade to help African-American scholars continues — with a few changes

Scholars with Jane Bunker’s painting “Stargazer.”
Luxury Living Tampa Bay

NOTE: A version of this story appears in the print and digital editions of the Spring 2020 issue of duPont REGISTRY Tampa Bay, which went to press before the COVID-19 outbreak. The dates and other plans mentioned in that version of the story have since changed; the following contains updated information.

Let’s see. What would be a good way to raise scholarship funds for college-bound African American high school seniors in Pinellas County?

A bake sale? A car wash? A fancy gala?

Or how about selling… paintings?

That was the perhaps unlikely notion of artist Jane Bunker, whom I interviewed last year about her plans to auction off her gorgeous, luminescent paintings of lilies to to fund a new scholarship initiative, the Woodson Warriors Scholarships Fund, at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum in St. Petersburg. 

Jane Bunker in the lobby of American Stage, where one of her paintings was displayed. Photo: Mason Morfit.

Well, unlikely it may have been, but her plan paid off big-time: Through auction sales and donations, $43,000 was raised last year, 100 percent of which was distributed by the museum to 17 college-bound students.

This year she planned to do it again, painting even more lilies and setting an even more ambitious goal: $100,000. But then COVID-19 entered the picture. Plans to hold an auction on Apr. 11 at the Carter Woodson were put on hold, and Bunker and the museum decided not to continue taking applications for a new group of 2020 scholars. 

Instead, money from painting sales and donations received by May 15, 2020 will be distributed to the 2019 scholars who have successfully completed their freshman year and plan to continue in college. All funds raised from May 15 onward will be saved for the new 2021 scholars. The re-scheduled auction, free and open to the public, will be held in March 2021 at the Woodson Museum.
 
“With funds already gathered from recent painting sales and many generous donations and pledges,” says Bunker, “we anticipate being able to give our 2019 scholars significant financial assistance for their sophomore year.”

I can tell you from speaking to three of these scholars that the money will be well spent. They’ve already had success at school, and their maturity and potential are impressive.

For Pinellas Park High grad Amya Ellison, 18, who began her first-year studies at the University of Florida over the summer (she plans to major in environmental management), the scholarship meant she was able to afford food and textbooks.

Amya Ellison. Photo: Mason Morfit

Lauryn Latimer, 19, who like Amya is a first-generation college student, graduated from the Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High School and is now studying to be a speech pathologist at USF. Being a Woodson Warrior has helped boost her self-confidence. “I’m a warrior,” she says. “I have the strength to fight through this.” 

Lauryn Latimer. Photo: Mason Morfit.

Daniel Sanders, a 19-year-old grad of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, is already making a mark at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. He co-founded the college’s first campus radio station; he does the public announcing for home basketball games; and he plays drums for services at the college chapel. He’s hoping to be a voiceover artist and/or a radio personality and/or a music producer someday.

Being a Woodson Warrior, he says, is “more than just getting a scholarship. It’s about being able to achieve not necessarily what’s expected of you but going beyond that and showing what you are capable of.”

Daniel Sanders. Photo: Mason Morfit.

These young people, I can assure you, are capable of a lot. 

To see these students and their peers on video, go to bunkerscholarshipauction.com, where you can also learn more about the auction and Jane Bunker’s art. You can donate directly to the Woodson Warriors Scholarships Fund at woodsonmuseum.org. Select “Scholarship” at the top of the screen and select the yellow “Donate” button on the Woodson Warrior Scholarship page. Or write a check payable to “Woodson Museum”: Put “Woodson Warriors” on the memo line and mail to: Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2240 9th Ave. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33712.

It’s unclear at this point whether the Woodson Museum will be open this spring, but if it is, the paintings will hang there for April and May and be for sale. If not, they can be purchased through bunkerscholarshipauction.com and seen at Bunker’s home in Gulfport through May. 
 
All additional updates will be posted on both the museum and Bunker auction websites. Any questions should be directed to Jane at 505-577-8018 or at janewbunker@gmail.com.

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