Cards filled with culture, conscience A notable undertaking: One man turns job dissatisfaction and love of Native American art and lore into a potentially profitable and personally fulfilling enterprise.

October 25, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

Fred Brothers didn't like himself anymore.

A construction company project manager building fast food restaurants for 20 years, Mr. Brothers realized he was mean and unhappy. So he quit.

Now, nearly two years later, Mr. Brothers feels he has found a fulfilling life helping others by producing note cards featuring famous Native Americans.

The cards, which will sell for $2.50 each, will be offered to Boy Scout troops nationwide for fund-raising projects. A set of eight cards will be sold for $20, he said.

"I realized that my job consisted [figuratively] of having to beat people up and getting beaten up," Mr. Brothers said. "I was totally bloody when the project was over with. I like what I'm doing now a lot better."

His new career choice came to him one night as he stared at a beloved painting of Geronimo, his son and two braves, Mr. Brothers said. The painting, one Mr. Brothers commissioned from Izilla Sterling-Zumkehr of Ohio, was inspired by a photo he bought years ago from the Arizona Historical Society.

"I thought that I might have to sell the painting," Mr. Brothers said, noting that everyone who has seen it has found the piece intriguing. "But then I thought, 'Why not share the painting?' "

Not only is there a growing interest in Native Americans, Mr. Brothers said, but this project might also increase awareness about the indignities many Native Americans endured nearly 100 years ago.

"As I've gotten older, I've realized that Americans need to get a conscience about what was done to the Native Americans," said Mr. Brothers, who is 57. "Not us, but what those people who came before us did to them. It all comes to the surface like so much dead fish."

The painting is the first of what will become a series of heavy cardboard note cards portraying famous Native Americans, Mr. Brothers said. Each painting will be done by a different artist, and each will be inspired by a photograph Mr. Brothers has lTC obtained permission to reproduce, he said.

"I don't want to take anything from anyone," Mr. Brothers said, adding that he intends to pay each artist a royalty. The Scout troops, which should start selling cards next spring, will get half the money and the rest will be used to cover expenses, he said.

"I hope to build on this and have the Boy Scouts benefit from it," said Mr. Brothers, whose next painting will be of Chief Lalolama, head of the Oraibi tribe of Hopi Indians. "I hope to have this last long after I'm gone."

There were two reasons for Mr. Brothers' decision to work with the Scouts, he said. First, the Pueblo, Colo., native had been a Scout in a troop that often performed Native American tribal dances.

Second, Mr. Brothers said, he felt that an organization teaching boys about honor and duty would be one that was innately honest.

"If you can't trust the Boy Scouts, you can't trust anybody," Mr. Brothers said. "It's important to me how this product reaches the market. I want them to take advantage of making the money."

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