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Jul 24, 2013

Art teacher who influenced a nation of artisans, passes away

Michelle Perdomo

Michelle Perdomo taught for about four decades at Saint John’s high school and junior college.  She taught or influenced much of the artists that have produced memorable work in Belize.  Perdomo came to Belize after falling in love with a teacher named Carlos, who eventually became the Minister of National Security and is the current cabinet secretary. The Perdomo family is in mourning because earlier today, Michelle passed away after battling diabetes for many years.  Amongst her many influential students is Gilvano Swasey. News Five spoke to Swasey about the teacher who was a part of his early formation as an artist.


Gilvano Swasey, Former Student of Michelle Perdomo

“My first encounter with Mrs. Perdomo was in second form at SJC when you had to choose between woodwork or art. At that time the space she had commanded was a small classroom from the early seventies. She had applied for an art program at SJC and ever since then she attracted many students and many bright minds that had passed through her classes. She’s very enthusiastic as many of her students would know—never letting you down or never telling you that you are going the wrong way. My encounter with her through those years from second form to fourth form and even sixth form when I took art with her was always a sense of positiveness a sense of people able to accomplish anything. And that was the mood she gave you—not just in art class, but in life itself.”


Jose Sanchez

Gilvano Swasey

“She also did this program with the prison where she brought prisoners on the weekends to teach them art.”


Gilvano Swasey

“Yes, definitely she worked with the prison department and after that I ended up working with them—even though I had come out of the art program—where we would go and set up a nice exhibit for them and the prison department along with their gift shop, participated in many international events and art competitions. Besides that, she also encouraged and started many art programs not just with SJC, nearby schools—Nazarene, E.P. Yorke, etc. And even up to today, many of these students enjoy having SJC as an outlet to express themselves.”


Jose Sanchez

“And even former students like myself were able to start programs at Gwen Liz. How many artists have you known, the good artists, that Belize can say came through Michelle Perdomo?”


Gilvano Swasey

“Well I would say ninety percent of artists today—maybe not just directly, but indirectly—as you mentioned myself, you, Yasser Musa, artist like Gerald Chavannes, Charles Chavannes. Even though Miss Perdomo art style was realism and contemporary art was something new, many artists learned from her and actually taught other artists. I started off as a realist artist and then I ended off as a curator at the Image Factory Art Foundation, a curator with the Museum of Belize and then eventually become an Art Dealer where from the same knowledge she taught me of how to look at a painting and how to defend it, I use it in pushing other people’s art. So I say ninety percent of the artists, directly and indirectly in Belize, have been influenced by her style and passion for art.”


In June 2011, at the Image Factory, Perdomo was recognized for thirty-eight years of service as a teacher of S.J.C.  The list of artists directly influenced by Perdomo does not only include Swasey, Musa and Chavannes.  Another artist that Perdomo influenced was Terryl Godoy, better known as Man at Work.  Over a decade ago, before he gained the courage to pursue and document life on the streets of Belize City, Godoy sought counsel from Perdomo. 

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Art teacher who influenced a nation of artisans, passes away”

  1. Voice of Reason says:

    Rest In Peace Mrs. Perdomo, you served as an inspiration to many and all who passed through your classrooms. You were always positive and supportive towards our imaginations. You will always be fondly remembered and always deeply missed.

  2. belizea says:

    Mrs. Perdomo (along with her husband) taught me about Christian Marriage when I was a First Year Student (class of ’84) at SJCJC.

    I always remember them together, as a couple, being very positive individuals. May she rest in Peace.

    God bless her.

  3. Fr. Dick Perl, SJ says:

    I first met Michelle and her good husband Carlos when I began to teach at SJC as a Jesuit scholastic in 1971. She was always energetic and her enthusiasm was contagious. Yes, we will miss her, but in another sense she is living in all those students she touched throughout the years.
    While American born, her spirit was Belizean. She da fu ya! And she continues being “fu ya” from “yonda” in heaven.
    Thank you, Michelle, for the gift of life you gave to all who knew you.
    Dick Perl, SJ

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