By Monte Lazarus
Twenty years ago Heidi Saletko and her husband were clearing palm fronds from their yard for recycling. Heidi is an artist; her husband was clearly very perceptive. He suggested using the fronds for her painting. Voila! The Frond Zoo was born.
Heidi began using parts of five types of fronds to create animal masks. She began with an elephant, and expanded the menagerie to zebras, lions, cheetahs, panthers, gorillas, giraffes, hyenas, wolves, fish and just about any other wild animal we know. Aside from the fronds all she uses are a few staples and her paint.
On January 20th Heidi spent much of the day at Tommie Barfield Elementary School. She was invited by Principal Dr. Jory Westberry to explain and demonstrate her artistry to the young students. In the school’s cafeteria at 9:30AM, Heidi astounded students and faculty alike as she showed in brief moments how to create an animal mask. She started with a piece of frond, backed it with “monkey hair” from another frond, and cut out and stapled a small triangular segment for a nose. With very few deft brush strokes she completed a mask of a Florida panther in less than three minutes. It was an astounding performance with a delightful result. The kids were entranced and bombarded Heidi with good questions.
For years Heidi has been supplied with fronds by her neighbors. It’s a two-pronged enterprise: Heidi gets a good supply; the environment gets a good cleaning. At her home in Naples she is able to turn out an astonishing number of masks that she sells in the $100-$400 range. Her masks come in natural colors or fanciful ones, depending on buyer’s choice.
Several times Heidi has fashioned zebra masks and then painted, in mural fashion, the zebra’s body on a wall. The mask completes a full make-up of a zebra.
She has also turned out a couple of tall giraffes.
On Saturday, February 18th, the Frond Zoo is coming to the Marco Island Historical Museum from 11:00AM to 3:00PM. Admission is free and the Beach Dog’s Food Cart will be there. Laurie Wagor, Director of Museum Events, adds that there will be raffle prizes, face painting, outdoor demonstrations and more. There will also be a Tommie Barfield Elementary Art Awards Ceremony.