Myrna and Sheldon Palley:
"A Touch Of Glass"
Written By Linda M. Firestone, PhD
A Touch Of Glass There is nothing more precious than a love that not only spans decades but is selfless enough to share itself with others. And there is nothing that illuminates with more beauty and grace than the prisms of the art glass that light up the lives of their generous providers. The Miami and International art world would forever be affected by the joining of forces of two University of Miami students, he studying to be an attorney and she an artist.
It has been over thirty years since Sheldon and Myrna Palley bought their first piece of glass art at a Miami Street fair, the delicate bowl with the integrated colors. As their family grew, so did the collection. Three hundred pieces later, having outgrown their elegant South Florida home, the donation of the Palley glass art collection, valued at over $2 million dollars, to the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum was realized this past year. As recipients of Lifetime Achievement awards both as philanthropists and art patrons, the wing that is named after them, whose construction and, diverse collections were made possible with the help of their $2 million dollar donation, is the exquisite emergence of the first free standing art museum in the region opened by the University of Miami in 1952.
In 2004 Myrna and Sheldon received outstanding accomplishment commendation as collectors and contributors in the glass art world from the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass. Just this May Myrna was honored by the Arts and Business Council of Miami. “It is an award” Myrna says, “that honors an individual who has been a mobilizer, a resource, an innovator, whose leadership enhances life in Greater Miami through the arts.” Collecting friends and ardent supporters is her passion, collecting money her forte. And, as always, her creativity is the foundation of her success. Whether she is selling used books out of the trunk of her car for the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre or mentoring and mothering struggling young artists, Myrna is never more than a phone call away from all who might need her. Take 28-year-old Ronald, whom Myrna calls “her adopted son”. Living here and there he was adrift, talented, and troubled. One look at him performing at a luncheon for the New World School of Arts with broken, taped glasses, and, after a trip to the optometrist for new glasses, “It was love at first sight.” He is now a working performing artist in Las Vegas. It is the Palleys’ personal connection to artists such as Hank M. Adams and John Kuhn that is uniquely satisfying to them.
Myrna and Sheldon’s names and their personal energies can be found at all levels of participation at a variety of arts organizations, institutions, and foundations. Among these are: The Education Fund, The National Foundation for the Arts, The New World School of Arts, The Wheaton Art and Cultural Center, The Miami Jewish Film Festival, The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, and Pop ‘n Tropical Nights at the Fairchild Gardens.
Myrna believes,“The arts are a crucial element of our society,” and cannot understand why legislators “keep cutting the budget. They don’t see what impact the arts have upon the children. The arts are food for the soul.”
At the opening ceremony of the Palley wing of the LoweMuseum last month, Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami, credited Myrna Palley’s vision and enthusiasm for having made “this gorgeous museum come to life.” Myrna insists that this is “just the beginning which will lead the University toward an outstanding art department by building its glass and ceramics program. I am once again asking President Donna Shalala to build the very best art faculty as she did in hiring master artist William Carlson. The arts must survive to take their place in our life and put life into our art. A passion for the arts and educational excellence are the only criteria for this university.” The Palleys cannot be deterred. Give them one wing and they’ll grow another one… until they fly.-DUO