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VOL. 115 | NO. 167 | Friday, October 5, 2001

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By JENNIFER MURLEY

Giving art and soul

By JENNIFER MURLEY
The Daily News
Kitty Sting has a unique job. She ensures that the aging, former mayors of Memphis stay in tip-top shape and looking good.
No, shes not a personal trainer.
She is an art conservationist on contract with the city, charged with preserving the hand-painted portraits hanging in the Hall of Mayors at city hall. Like the city contract, she has similar arrangements with the Brooks Museum of Art and various other museums, collectors and auction houses.
But, her latest accomplishment doesnt involve art, at least not directly. Instead, it involves her other passion the Latin community.
Sting, 51, is a founding member and current president of Casa de Columbia, which is hosting its 10th anniversary gala Oct. 20, honoring a decade of service to the Latin community.

The nonprofit organization, which began as a way for people within the Latin community to help each other, was created in 1991 while Sting was serving Mayor Dick Hacketts administration on an international committee.

Now, after 10 years of hosting dinners and countless hours of volunteer work, more than 30 families participate in the organization, raising more than $5,000 each year. The money is divided between a wealth of Latino causes both abroad and within the community including health care assistance, disaster relief and education. In fact, Sting recently received the good news that for $300, Casa de Columbia will be able to send six Columbian children to school for one year.
Its like an extended family, Sting said of the group. We have cried together, rejoiced and worked together. Its just a little piece of home.
Home for Sting, born Maria Cristina Daza, is Bogota, Columbia. She has fond memories of her early years in South America, where, her artistic talents surfaced at the tender age of 7.
I was just painting the walls of the house, she said, laughing. Seriously, with chalks, with my mothers lipsticks, just anything that I could grab a hold of. Her father promptly channeled Stings energy away from the furniture and walls and into art classes, where she tutored under European greats such as French maestro Pedro Chantres and her mentor, Italian maestra Bianca Fiorini.

Sting went on to earn undergraduate and masters degrees in fine arts, as well as a communication degree at the request of father, who wanted her to have a back-up plan just in case art didnt pay the bills. Furthering her passion for art, she went on to receive a doctorate in art conservation from Englands Oxford University.
In 1972, she married and moved to the States, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1985. Over the past 29 years, Sting has served in numerous capacities within local organizations ranging from past-president of the Madonna Circle to a volunteer at the Mother Teresa Shelter. She was nominated as one of former-President Bushs Points of Light, and most recently she was the recipient of the Germantown Arts Alliance bronze medal lifetime achievement award.
Although Sting counts her deep religious faith as her source of strength, in 1994 she and her husband suffered the loss of their 19-year-old daughter, which ultimately rearranged her perspective.
My family was my strength, and she was my inspiration really, she said. When it happened, it was like when somebody pulls a rug from under your feet and you cant get balanced anymore.
That was when Sting eventually realized her inner strength. Its the same strength of spirit present today in her meticulous artwork, now evident as she leads Casa de Columbia into a new decade of service.
I live for the day and do the best I can, she said. The meaning of life, really, is just helping one another, because, you only pass through this world one time and whatever good you can do, thats what you take with you.

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