The Woodburn Art Center's February show features artist Andy Drapiza, who has faced many challenges in his life, from homelessness to possible paralysis

by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Andy Drapiza stands beside some of his watercolor paintings on display at the Woodburn Art Center in February.The Woodburn Art Center presents the oil paintings of Andy Drapiza, a third generation artist whose life work benefits the underprivileged, Feb. 1-26.

Drapiza, born and raised in the Philippines, is the ninth of 13 children, but was only 6 when his father died during World War II. Although his father, a fine arts student, was gone, Drapiza learned to paint from his older brother.

“I have six brothers and we all paint,” he said.

After high school graduation, Drapiza left home, but fell on hard times, finding himself homeless for a number of months.

“I learned what people on the street really go through,” he said.

He was able to immigrate to the United States, living in Chicago and Florida, where he took his painting talent into the business world with billboard advertising. After retirement, he moved to Oregon, where he has continued his oil paintings and has had his work displayed in a number of art shows.

Ever since his struggles as a young man, Drapiza has been determined that the proceeds from his pieces should go toward helping the less fortunate. In 2003, his family founded the Blandina Infante Drapiza Foundation, named after his mother, which supports health, education and service at the New Hope Mission Academy for Aeta, or indigenous, children in Guimbal, Iloilo, Philippines.

“I’m doing this for them,” he said. “It’s about changing this generation because if they grow up like their parents, they won’t get a proper education. My goal in life is to see one of the students come back as a teacher.”

The last few years haven’t been easy when it comes to his passion for art. After being in a bad traffic accident in 1995, Drapiza has had a neck injury that could cause him to become paralyzed if operated on. The injury causes his left hand to be numb. So the left-hander had to relearn his craft with his right hand.

“It’s not completely new to me: When I was in school my teacher tied down my left hand to make me use my right,” he recalled.

Much of his work, which is mostly realism, will be on display at the Woodburn Art Center, 2551 N. Boones Ferry Road throughout the month, with an artist’s reception kicking off the opening of the exhibit Feb. 1 at 5 p.m.

“This building doesn’t have enough walls for all my paintings,” he said.

Drapiza, who lives in Silverton and has two children in the medical field, is thankful for his life, and sees his foundation as just a way of saying thank you.

“I’m dedicated to helping other people,” he said. “It’s about time I return what God has given me.”

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