A partnership between The Public Education Partnership of Winter Haven, Inc. (PEP) and Arts Ensemble for PEP’s enrichment project is giving kids the opportunity to explore the arts like they might not otherwise have the chance to.
A key player in the enrichment project is Kurtis Flanders. Flanders is the Recreation and Activities Director for PEP and the Growing Positivity Program Manager for the Arts Ensemble. He is admittedly passionate about all community aspects. He works with faith-based missions, nonprofits, after-school programs, education programs, and sits on the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee. “As long as it has to do with community, that’s where my heart is,” he said. “We can all be dynamic individuals, but also giving back is what will take us all further ahead in the future.”
Flanders has indeed put his heart into this program and has been instrumental in facilitating the ongoing enrichment program.
PEP is an after school program providing a safe place for students to do their homework, enjoy a healthy snack, learn, and “have a greater opportunity of scoring better in the future,” explained Flanders.
He described the enrichment program, saying, “Basically, we’re bringing in music, art, sports, and recreation professions to interact with the kids and give them a sense that their electives can be used to inspire them to tackle their academics.”
PEP has so far brought in the men’s basketball team from Polk State College to play with the kids, Tinia Clark from Side Street Studio, and others inspiring creatives.
The Doors Project
The most sizable aspect of the program so far has been an initiative in which kids from PEP and artists from across the state are giving free rein to create a masterpiece on a door. The door project will have a minimum of 30 artists from at least 15 different cities creating works of art on a door with a projected goal of around 64 completed works between the artists and PEP kids.
Flanders has invited artists of varying experience levels from emerging to professional, with different mediums and backgrounds.
Once completed, the doors will stay at PEP to create educational divides for the different spaces. Flanders also plans to reach out to a handful of organizations to have the doors go on a traveling display to bring recognition to the artists and share the PEP story.
Lipstick and Spray Paint
A professional artist participating in the program is Alexis Fraser aka Lipstick Lex.
Lex has been an artist her whole life but never imagined she’d be able to do it for a living.
After going to school for an degree in education, people began to take notice of her work. Though she had dabbled with unconventional mediums in the past, she discovered her signature medium when challenged to do a portrait of Marilyn Monroe in an unconditional way that would correlate in some way to the actress. Lex decided to do a portrait using lipstick and kisses, a fitting medium to depict Monroe.
Through this, the Lipstick Lex brand was born and has grown. Within the last few years, art has developed into her full-time gig.
Flanders reached out to Lex on social media and was persistent in gaining her participation. Because her artwork is unconventional, she is often approached for donation work, but because of time constraints and art being her full-time job, she isn’t able to do them all. Flanders’ persistence paid off when Lex happily agreed to do the project. “My art is all about spreading love and positivity and giving back,” she said. “It seemed like a truly legitimate, beautiful cause and a really cool project.”
When we spoke with Lex, she was in the process of conceptualizing her door and is excited to get started.
Another artist Kurtis reached out to is Drake Arnold who came from Ocala with his artist girlfriend, Rae Grand, to each paint a door.
A lifelong creative, Drake identified more as a musician for much of his life. He immersed himself more seriously in visual art about 7 years ago and it has remained his focus since. He’s been a full-time artist for about 2 to 3 years now.
He primarily uses acrylic and spray paint, but also enjoys digital artwork like animations and digital paintings.
Kurtis had been in touch with him several times to do other projects, but Drake’s schedule never lined up to do them. When this opportunity arose and his schedule allowed it, Drake jumped on the doors project.
“I try to make artwork that is inspiring or uplifting to the human spirit,” he said. “I want to make beautiful imagery that inspires a positive change in the world, but more so than that, when I get the opportunity to use my artwork for a good cause or give back in a more direct way – why not?”
He completed his door, a painting of a clownfish peeking out from a bunch of sea anemones, in one day using spray paint and acrylics. He thought the animated clownfish reminiscent of Finding Nemo would be a hit with the kids – and it was.
PEP Kids Paint Doors of Their Own
Two PEP students, Jayda and Amirah were among the kids working on their own doors.
Ten-year-old Jayda has been coming to PEP for two years and says her favorite part of the program are the teachers, having fun, and learning to make food.
She drew out the idea for her door, depicting colorful flowers and the words, ‘Love, Learn, Laugh,’ and then painted it herself.
Amirah, age eight, said her door took about 4 weeks to complete. A house with grass and birds and sun are depicted. She explained that she chose to put a sun on her door because if we didn’t have the sun then plants wouldn’t grow, and birds wouldn’t be able to hatch their eggs.
The second grader who plans to be an engineer when she grows up says she has a great time at PEP. “I like when I paint a lot and we get to play outside and they give us food and we go to Mr. K’s (Kurtis Flanders’) room because that’s my favorite,” she said.
The list of artists is expanding and Flanders would like to put out a call to artists of all levels and mediums interested in painting a door.
Kurtis can be reached by email at
Current Artist List:
AJ Green @Cosmic.nature_
Tyreke Harris @Tyreke_the_artslayer
Drake Arnold @Drake_arnold_art
Rae Grand @Raegrand.art
Sketch G @1sketch
PJ Svejda @Pjsvejda
Lipstick Lex @Lipstick_lex
Carlos Gonzalez @Carlosinocentegonzalezart
Amanda LaForest @Thepeachmoon
Haven Magazine Team @haven_magazine