by Ken Kemp
Ben has always appreciated art. He grew up on the West Coast – Eureka, California where the redwood forests grew thick and tall; then in urban San Francisco and finally Portland/Vancouver Washington. He loved the seasons, the fresh green trails, and the coastline. He found himself sketching what he saw on notepads and artist books and loved painting. People seemed to notice and appreciate his work, but he didn’t take it seriously - until later.
In high school, he was drawn more to art, theater and drama than sports. He performed on stage, loving the stories and the cast camaraderie.
Ben decided he would pursue art as a career but shortly after graduating high school, tragedy struck – Ben’s mom was diagnosed with a serious cancer, and less than a year later, the disease took her life. She was 48. Ben was 18. His family grieved the unexpected, terrible loss; Ben’s dad moved on; Ben and his siblings were left to sort it all out.
He took a graphic arts design course and excelled. But at the time, he surveyed the job market and concluded that a good paying job as an artist was out of reach. The deep grief and sudden loss of all he had known left him feeling an abandonment he could not describe; and an uncertainty about where his life was going.
Ben’s mother was a woman of deep faith. He knew how it sustained her, even in those final days. She believed in her son; her prayers and reassurance remained in his memory. She had always encouraged him to see the world beyond theirs; to go somewhere on some kind of mission to serve and learn and grow and give.
Through some friends, he learned about such a place on the Big Island of Hawaii. He bought a one-way plane ticket, sold his car (his beloved ’57 Chevy Wagon) and packed his bags. When he arrived, he was warmly welcomed and put to work. In this place of beauty, he was able to find true healing. For the first time, he was able to release and let go of years of pain, anger and disappointment. There in the middle of the blue Pacific, on that island paradise, Ben found a wholeness he’d never known.
He also met a young woman from Chico, California, who would become his wife 7 years later.
As Ben puts it, “Art went on the shelf for twenty years.” He was able to travel around the world, spent a summer in Prague in Europe and finally to Dallas, Texas where ended up getting married- Amy and Ben settled there to raise a family. They now have three children – a 15-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Although art was “put on the shelf” art was always appreciated and loved. He enjoyed visiting museums and galleries and weekend art shows.
Always the entrepreneur, Ben became a real estate agent and to no one’s surprise, became quite successful.
Along the way, Ben met and worked real estate with a key, FLITE TO FREEDOM board member, Yvette Grove.
It was when Ben bought a new house and wanted original artwork to adorn the walls that Ben returned to the canvas. He blended his love and passion for architecture and real estate design with contemporary and abstract art and staged renovated homes with the artwork. He started creating original pieces that matched the design and style of his listings. People were amazed. Open Houses became a major attraction.
What started as a hobby became a vocation and calling. Commissions came in. Galleries displayed his work. Ben’s one regret: his Mom isn’t here to enjoy the work.
But her imprint is all over his life.
When Yvette introduced Ben to Angela Mia de la Vega, they bonded quickly. Ben’s mission work and his Mom’s memory gave him a passion for the marginalized and abused, in our cities and around the world. His own art comes from a place of hardship and loss; bringing color and meaning and wholeness and hope. He resonates with the vision that energizes Flite to Freedom.
He presented several pieces at our Fall Event – the 2018 Art of Freedom Show at the Lawley Gallery. His work attracted lots of attention and brought in a good price.
We’re very pleased to announce that Ben has volunteered to serve as Flite Artist Committee Chair for our next event coming up November 9, 2019.
Ben Fluno is a valued member of the FLITE TEAM.