"Mystery" Artist Surprises Fort Lauderdale Businesses with Paintings | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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"Mystery" Artist Surprises Fort Lauderdale Businesses with Paintings

A few days ago, New Times received this interesting tale from Fort Lauderdale activist/blogger Cal Deal, via an email titled "Strange Happening:"

An odd thing happened this morning. A "elderly" man in a beret delivered a shiny gift bag to Dr. Stoll's office across the street from me at about 7:30 a.m. ... before anyone was around. He left it by the front door. Okay, I thought, it's just an delivery for an employee.

But minutes later I noticed the man doing the same thing next door to me, at Moldof's law office. Very odd. The man walks very slowly and deliberately, and his right arm seems locked in position.

Deal watched, and discovered that this mystery man is Peter Dean, a painter who makes pictures of buildings and then tries to sell them. A letter he leaves with each painting contains his phone number. New Times gave him a call. His wife, Dee Dean, answered.

She explained that early in the morning -- when most parking lots are empty -- Peter Dean drives around Fort Lauderdale, looking for a building that inspires him. When he finds one, he parks, gets out of his car, and takes a picture with his good arm -- his left one.

When he's done this two or three times, he'll drive over to Walmart, develop his pictures, then return back home to paint them.

Once they're painted, he'll frame them himself using wood he bought at Home Depot. And then the following week, he'll return to those businesses to try and sell his paintings.

Dean has been doing this in Florida for two years, but he's been painting his whole life. The 77-year-old former contractor graduated from Philadelphia School of Fine Arts in 1960, and has seen beauty in architecture his whole life. "Painting was always his first love," Dee Dean, says. "Now he has time to do it, and he's very happy doing it. He feels very productive."

In 1994, Dean suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak or walk. He spent time recovering at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, CT. There he had to learn to paint with his left hand. He no longer had use of the right one. He taught painting classes to other handicapped people in the rehabilitation center and continued making progress in his own recovery, regaining the ability to walk.

Soon, money issues forced Dean and his wife down to Florida. They've been living off his paintings since the stroke.

"He had his stroke 19 years ago, and we haven't had a paycheck since then. He's been trying his best to get us through. That's what he's doing," Dee says.