Marihelen Wheeler: Spirit of Gainesville nominee

Published: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.

Thirty years ago, Marihelen Wheeler moved to Florida to teach art. Art jobs were scarce, but with advanced degrees in both art education and special education, she was able to use her art background to teach children with behavior disorders. She also reached out to at-risk youth as a volunteer at the Gainesville Community Playhouse, where she served on the Board of Directors and as head costumer for two decades. She continuous to serve there as a member and costumer. She also mentors students through the Just Arts Program, where she also serves on the board of directors. Marihelen has received two grants from Very Special Arts Florida to create dance therapy programs for exceptional students at Westwood.


Marihelen Wheeler


Category: Arts

About Marihelen Wheeler

Occupation: Teacher

Years in Gainesville: 30

Spouse: Paul Wheeler, Ph.D.

Children: Noah (deceased), Jeremiah

Eventually, Marihelen realized her dream of becoming an art teacher; she has taught art for 18 years at Westwood, where she has mentored students whose art projects have benefited the community as well as the school. Her students have worked for the city of Gainesville in producing large butterfly displays for UF\'s first butterfly festival. They have painted murals for the Westwood campus and for a March of Dimes fundraiser. They have painted sets for the Gainesville Community Playhouse and learned to sew theater costumes. Marihelen inspires her students to use their artistic skills and creative thinking to improve their communities. Her students have gone on to become fashion designers, film makers, chefs and cooks, engineers, geologists, graphic artists, and productive professionals in other fields that rely on artistic skill and creativity for success.

An artist herself, since 1990 Marihelen has served as head costumer for many Gainesville Community Playhouse shows. She has volunteered countless hours there, working alongside other volunteers in transforming the Playhouse into the outstanding theatrical venue this community cherishes.

For more than three decades, Marihelen Wheeler has served as a role model for artists, art educators, and for people who use the arts to improve their work and their communities. She has inspired generations of young people to serve their communities and enhance their professions through the arts. And what lies ahead for Marihelen? She has expanded her community service to include public service. She has become a public advocate for continuing to provide arts education in the schools, for improved public education, and for water quality and conservation in our community.

Relevant Participation in Association Memberships, Civic Groups and Offices Held:

Teacher, Westwood Middle School, Special Education 1994 to 2000, Art Education 2000 to present

Member, Alachua County Education Association, Florida Education Association, National Education Association, 1985 to present

Secretary and member of the Board of Directors, Santa Fe Lake Dwellers, 2005 to present

Very Special Arts Director, Levy County, 1985 to l994

Alachua County Very Special Arts Teacher, l994 to 2000

Board Member and Student Supervisor, \"Just Arts\" Juvenile Justice Intervention Program, l996 to l998

Member, AWAKE MARION Leadership Group, 2012 to present

Project Director and District 3 Coordinator, Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now, 2013 to present

Head Costume Designer and member of the Board of Directors, Gainesville Community Playhouse, l991-2012 (Playhouse Member and Costumer, 2012 to present)

Candidate, Florida House of Representatives District 20, 2011 to 2012

Nominated by Martin Heesacker

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