BOSTON — Silvia Leary is sitting in the sleek, ultramodern lounge at the Harborside Inn, a boutique hotel on State Street, recalling her days as a struggling single mom and full-time Salem State College student, living in Lynn’s Curwin Circle subsidized housing.
“There were mice and there was mold. No matter how hard I scrubbed, I couldn’t get rid of the mold,” she says. “But I was determined to work hard and make a better life for my daughter, Chanelle, and me.”
These days, Leary has achieved great success as VIA (Very Important Artist), an in-demand artist and fashion designer. She has a studio in the LynnArts building in downtown Lynn. Her daughter, 19, is also doing well, studying business at Suffolk University.
“Lynn means a lot to me,” said Leary, who was living in an orphanage in Guatemala when, at age 7, she was adopted by Claire and Ron Leary of Lynn. “I got so much help and support when I was living at Curwin Circle, I want to give back and give hope to those in Lynn who might be in a situation similar to what I went through.”
Saturday night, Leary will present her new fashion collection and Conversational Paint Series, “The Global Standards of Beauty,” in this same hotel lounge at 185 State St. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Family Friendly Resource Center at Centerboard in Lynn, whose mission is “Empowering families, young people and communities for success by doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Martina Campbell, manager of the resource center, lives in Lynn and is thrilled that Leary is helping out. She said the center receives no state or federal funding, and must raise funds to provide services. The Family Resource Center celebrates its fifth anniversary Oct. 16. “What a great birthday gift Silvia is giving us,” she said.
Campbell, a 2001 Lynn Vocational Technical Institute graduate and NSCC grad who is now studying psychology, said she has struggled too. “I am the people I serve. I have four children and it hasn’t always been easy. I’m dedicated to my community. Lynn is a special place with a lot of great, compassionate people. My staff and I work to get the families we work with into the mindset ‘I can get out of this difficult situation,’ like Silvia, I and many others have done.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. Saturday. From 7:30 to 9:30, there will be gallery viewing and a silent auction of many items, including autographs and memorabilia from local professional sports teams and athletes.
Ivania Nicole, Ms. Massachusetts U.S. 2016 and a board member of Fashion Group International’s Boston Chapter, will host the event. Gee Spin, who manages the East Coast for I Heart Radio, will be DJ.
The VIA fashion show begins at 10 p.m. with a performance by members of Lynn’s ITM (In The Mak’n) Step Squad and Dance Team, run by Lynn Tech football coach James Runner.
What is Leary’s Conversational Paint Series “The Standards of Beauty” about?
“It is about the acceptance and differences in other cultures on what is considered beautiful in their culture. I only paint women, women from different parts of the world. Who are we to judge or set the tone globally for the standards of beauty? Women of color should not feel they have to lighten their skin to be beautiful, no matter what the media tells us.”
Leary thanked Mark Hagopian, owner of the Harborside Inn, for his support and confidence in her. She was hired to provide artwork — hers and others — to decorate the hotel’s rooms. Welcoming paintings of sailboats and historical images such as the four U.S. presidents from Massachusetts add local flavor to each suite.
For more information on Centerboard or the Family Forward Resource Center, go to https://centerboard.org/family-services. For tickets to VIA’s “Global Standards of Beauty” fashion show, $25 to $100, go to Eventbrite here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-global-standards-of-beauty-fashion-show-tickets-64707533976?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-source=wa&utm-term=listing