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Tonya Smith stands next to a recently completed commissioned painting in her home studio, Moondance Art and Design Company.
Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 6 years ago

Neighbors: Tonya Smith

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Local artist Tonya Smith is planning to serve some hard time behind bars. But this jailbird is no criminal; she’s taking part in the Sarasota Executive Lock Up to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Smith will be locked up Wednesday, Aug. 22, in a mock jail cell and must raise bail money in order to be freed. As a person with muscular dystrophy, the event holds a special significance for Smith.

Diagnosed with the disease in 2000, doctors told Smith that she had a carnitine deficiency, which causes problems with energy production.

“I was actually grateful for the diagnosis,” said Smith. “I was having seizures and blackouts, and I didn’t know why. Now, I’m able to get medicine that helps.”

Smith has been involved with the MDA event in the past as a guest speaker, but this is the first time she’s stepping behind bars.

“The funds help in a lot of ways,” says Smith. “Research is really expensive, and a lot of the proceeds are used locally.”

Smith is also using her background as an artist to benefit the fundraiser. Anyone who makes a donation greater than $20 will be entered into a drawing to win one of Smith’s original angel paintings.

Smith was introduced to her passion at a young age, but didn’t pursue it seriously until six years ago.

“I thought I might try to do mural work, but all the standing would be tough with my MD.” Instead, she started by painting a series of cards that featured Bible verses and angels.

“When I finished the wings on my first angel, I was like, ‘Oh, wow — who did that’? I thought I could paint angels forever.”

Smith continues to produce art in her home studio, Moondance Art and Design Co.

Smith hopes to one day open a Christian recovery center for those suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.

“Whether I can donate my time or my talent, I’m always looking to help others.”

Smith will be raising bail money 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, in front of the Publix at Bee Ridge and Beneva Roads.

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