Michelle: Portrait of an Artist
Michelle of American House Park Place was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in the South Bronx, a few blocks from Yankee Stadium. She attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where the movie Fame was shot. She graduated in 1980, the same year the movie came out. “Every time I watch that movie it’s like a yearbook for me,” Michelle said with a laugh. “I loved my time there.”
Michelle was an up-and-coming artist and working professionally by the age of 17. She moved west to attend Denver University on a four-year scholarship and wrote the fashion column for a local newspaper. “I had my own graphic design business and was modeling at the time, so I didn’t work for anyone but myself.”
After a stint in graphic design work with Coca-Cola, Michelle’s talent and connections led her to Philip Bailey, the Grammy award-winning lead singer of Earth Wind and Fire. She did all the artwork for his concert in Denver, which led her to work for another Grammy winner, Vicky Wyman, and many award-winning gospel singers. “I enjoyed working for those artists very much,” Michelle said.
She also met her husband in Denver, and they had six children, three boys and three girls, and 18 grandchildren. Beyond her artistic talents, Michelle also held many high-powered corporate positions. “I worked for International Cruises and Excursions, and I was the lead concierge for Arnold Palmer’s golf company. I booked a lot of golf tournaments and celebrity cruises for him.”
Life, Michelle knows, isn’t always a bed of roses and can take unexpected twists and turns. Earlier this year, she traveled to New Mexico to be with her mother, who was a United Nations correspondent, published author and professional photographer.
“My mom was an incredible photographer and journalist. She was always my biggest supporter and fan and, sadly, passed away in May,” Michelle said, fighting back tears. “She always used to say to me, ‘Michelle, what’re you doing that’s creative today?’ I’d tell her I’m going to help you today. We’d do art together and the look on my mom’s face…she was just so happy. I loved her and I miss her so very much.”
Since moving into American House Park Place, Michelle wanted to give back at her new home and is now offering art classes to her fellow residents.
“It’s so enjoyable to learn about other people. We do memory collages and have so much fun. I have a wonderful following and have made so many friends. We’ll even share cheese, crackers and wine while working. I like helping people work with hand-eye coordination and color theory. It’s very rewarding and fills a need in me.” Michelle was more than happy to share many pictures of fellow residents holding up their artwork.
“There are so many interesting people here,” she said, “with such amazing stories to tell. I don’t think I’m the one worthy of a story. But I do love Michigan. And I do love American House.”
We all have a story. A story that taught us something, changed us and helped define who we are. Our seniors have amazing stories that hold a wealth of wisdom. At American House, your next chapter is waiting to be written. We’re here to help you write it. Your way.
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