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.”
IF YOU GO
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.