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Painting helps heal Liberian artist

Peter Glanville

Peter Glanville will offer paintings of Liberian artist again at the Jubilee Marketplace.

Peter Glanville had no idea when he and his wife, Amber, decided to adopt a Liberian child that they would become involved in fair trade, helping artist Wilson Fallah sell oil paintings.

They met him in 2008, when they first went to Liberia, because it had a pilot program for international adoptions.

They were impressed with carvings, baskets, jewelry and crafts of other artists, who were poor and could not make a living selling their work in Liberia.  Peter started a nonprofit, Four Corners Markets, to help Liberian artists market their crafts. 

They sold some of their art, but now focus on Wilson’s paintings on canvas, denim and other fabrics, which can be rolled and easily carried in a suitcase.

His paintings reflect post-war Liberia, capturing and helping people focus on the innocence of everyday Liberian life so they have hope that they can have a peaceful society.  Most show village scenes of people working or playing music, and of women grinding grain or carrying water.

Wilson, now 26, was 19 when they met and had won awards as a youth artist.  Forced to be a child soldier at the age of nine, he fought against Charles Taylor, ex-Liberian president who was later sentenced to a British prison for war crimes. 

At the end of the civil war 10 years ago, Wilson, who is Christian, was adrift and had a hard time until he started to paint as a way to cope and heal.  He paints to help others heal, too. 

He has won many awards in Liberia for his artwork and has paintings featured in government buildings, including the U.S. Embassy.

The first year Peter sold his art at First Presbyterian Church’s annual Jubilee International Marketplace, they sent him the proceeds, $1,500, quite a sum for someone living on $45 a month.  Wilson used the money to buy musical instruments and a sound system so he could play music at weddings and events to earn regular income to help support his wife and two-year-old child.

Peter will sell Wilson’s paintings Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7, at Jubilee Marketplace at First Presbyterian, 318 S. Cedar.

In previous years, he also sold paintings at the Fall Folk Fest and weekend events.  Now he’s just sells the paintings at Jubilee.

The adoption, which was completed in 2009 when their son Henry was a year and a half, has changed Peter and Amber’s lives in other ways.  They also have two daughters, one 10 and one a baby.

Henry has a neurological condition with spinal and growth problems like cerebral palsy.  They see doctors in Spokane and Seattle often.

Since they were about 12 years old, Peter and Amber had been living in a church community of 250 on a farm north of Colville. 

His family had sold everything they had to move there from Phoenix.  For 17 years, they lived in the community where Peter was a cabinetmaker.

They left the community a year after they adopted Henry to be closer to Spokane for his medical needs and so Peter could pursue a career in medicine.

Peter’s father, a physician, now lives in Colorado, provides medical care for anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay,” he said.

First, Peter and Amber moved to Hayden, where he continued to run his cabinetmaking business. Five years ago, they moved to Spokane. They have been visiting different churches.

He started EMT training with AMR Ambulance to be a paramedic. 

Then he was accepted to the University of Washington in Spokane as a full-time student to be a physician assistant (PA).  He graduated in September and started in family practice with Family Health Center.

Peter would like to use his medical skills to help people overseas.  He decided to be a PA rather than a MD because of his age and family. 

“I like family practice because of relating with people in a breadth of conditions,” he said. 

Peter went to the speech by Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson at Gonzaga University in October.

She said that Liberia has 218 medical doctors and 400 nurses serving 3 million people.  During the Ebola outbreak, Liberia lost about 150 of nearly 800 medical personnel.  On Sept. 3, the United Nations declared Liberia Ebola Free.

Because physician assistants (PA) are recognized as medical professionals in Liberia, Peter would like to go there on short-term visits to volunteer to teach physician assistants and he plans to sponsor people to go to a PA school there, where the cost of studies is one-tenth what it is in the United States.

“There is a desperate need for medical personnel there,” he said.

When Peter and Amber went to Liberia in 2008, they knew nothing about the country.

“We learned that the colony that would become Liberia was established in 1816 by American slaves sent back to re-colonize the area in Africa,” Peter said.

Ellen Sirleaf Johnson said that the Americo-Africans came to Africa Americanized. 

Some had education and set up a government, but did not allow freedom or voting rights for indigenous people.  That led to conflicts over the last nearly 200 years.

In 1980, there was a coup, and the first indigenous African leader came into power. 

There were 20 years of civil war, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Liberians and destroying the infrastructure. 

Peter said there were horrific war crimes under the former president Charles Taylor.

“When we began the process of adopting Henry, Liberia was recovering from the civil war and there was a heavy presence of United Nations peacekeepers,” he said.

With the UN presence over the last 15 years and the leadership of Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Liberia made progress from extreme poverty and rebuilt infrastructure—generating stations, roads and buildings.

Peter started Four Corners Markets to help struggling artists in Liberia market their crafts in Monrovia and abroad.

“The artists are poor.  They make beautiful art, but cannot sell it and make a living,” he said.

When he was first there, he connected with a woodcarving co-op, a basket weaver, a shoemaker and tie dyers, as well as Wilson.

Then he started studies to be a PA, and he could not afford to continue to help the other artists.  He sold the items he had from them and sent the money to them.

He continues to work with Wilson.

“My goal is to bring him here for two months a year to paint, do exhibits and demonstrations, speak at schools and share his experiences as a child soldier,” said Peter.

“He has never been out of Liberia and dreams of coming to America some day soon,” Peter said.

“He had the fortitude to move beyond life as a child soldier and work for peace,” said Peter, who communicates with him through missionary friends in Seattle who are building a hospital in Liberia.

He helped them raise $100,000 in medical equipment in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area. 

For information, call 208-699-9626 or email prglanville@gmail.com.





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