Driving: A Metaphor for Life

Helenlouise Pettis Article Image

HelenLouise C. Pettis with AIR alum Langston Hughes ll, who continues his education at Juilliard

Driving: A Metaphor for Life

by Noreen B. Freidman

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Strathmore member and donor HelenLouise C. Pettis spent most of her career as an arts educator/graphic artist. Inspired by her entrepreneurial parents, who owned a successful DC catering business, HelenLouise earned a BA and an MA in art from Howard University.

Reminiscing on her youth, HelenLouise speaks enthusiastically about her first car, a previously owned sporty Jaguar XK140! Somehow this vehicle is a metaphor for the drive and passion of this spunky octogenarian whose long life has been filled with exciting turns.

From joining the Department of the Navy as a graphic artist, through a varied art career in higher education, and retiring as an administrator for the DC Public Schools, HelenLouise has enjoyed her long life’s journey.

Channeling her inner teacher, HelenLouise discovered she could fulfill her life’s purpose by investing in Strathmore programs that cultivate young artists and musicians—the Invitational Gallery at the Mansion, where she was the first artist to exhibit, and the Artist in Residence (AIR) program.

Like reaching the crossroads on an adventurous car trip, HelenLouise supports “young adults at the pivotal point in their lives and careers,” including the AIR program that mentors and showcases young talents.

With her philanthropy, she declares, “I don’t need anything in return. I do this out of the goodness of my heart. My parents were like this; they always invited my college buddies, who couldn’t be with their families, to our home for the holidays. It’s important to support each other.”

For information on how to make a difference through Strathmore, contact Heidi Onkst, Vice President of Advancement, at 301.581.5133 or honkst@strathmore.org, or visit Strathmore.org/support.