Escape to paradise: Janesville artist prepares to teach on Honduran island
JANESVILLE—Stained-glass artist Richard Snyder hopes to re-invent himself in paradise.
The Janesville man has shipped 400 pounds of glass and equipment to Roatan, a small island about 40 miles off the northern coast of Honduras.
He flies to the island Jan. 4 and will stay a month.
When Snyder arrives, he will teach stained-glass classes to paying U.S. and Canadian tourists at two hotels and an art gallery.
“I already have more than 25 people signed up,” he said.
He also plans to teach free classes to the Honduran people, especially children.
“The local people are poor,” Snyder said. “They might be able to boost their standard of living by selling what they make to tourists.”
Snyder is known for his restoration of 44 stained-glass windows at Janesville's Oak Hill Chapel. He looks forward to its grand opening in May.
Last week, he had three more windows to complete to bring the historic chapel back to its former glory.
“Hopefully, they will be done by the time I leave,” Snyder said, sitting in his Janesville studio.
In visits to Roatan last summer, Snyder found no stained glass for sale. But he encountered friendly people enthusiastic about his art form.
Originally, he was looking for a place to escape harsh Wisconsin winters. He sent teaching proposals to hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands but got no responses.
Then a friend suggested he consider Roatan, which is 45 miles long and only 5 miles wide.
The island squats at the southern tip of the 700-mile-long Mesoamerican Reef, the second biggest barrier reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Once, Roatan was the domain of Spanish conquistadors and British pirates. Today, divers flock to the island, which is circled by an underwater garden of corals and sponges.
Snyder brings decades of experience to his new endeavor.
He has worked as an artist since the late 1970s, when he sold his stained-glass pieces to gift shops and other stores.
“I love to draw,” he said. “Much of what I do is custom designed. Anyone can use patterns. I like to put my own flavor to my work.”
Snyder also has taught glass art for more than 30 years.
“After taking one or two classes, most people are amazed at how easy stained glass is,” he said. “At first, they are not sure they can do it. But all my students finish their projects.”
He never tires of his art, especially when he holds up a finished piece to see how sunlight breathes life into the colorful patterns.
Snyder believes Roatan might offer more than a winter escape.
“I'm looking forward to a new way of life,” he said. “I want an easier, laid-back life with less stress. It's hard to make ends meet here. By the time you pay all your bills, there's not much left.”
The cost of living in Roatan is 40 percent less than in Janesville, he said.
Snyder also won't have a hard time getting used to the turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean, which he called hypnotic, and 80-degree temperatures.
If he finds enough business to support himself, he wants to build a learning studio and a handful of tiny homes where students can live while attending classes.
“This will only play out if the teaching idea is successful,” Snyder said.
He needs to pursue his dream.
“If I could live anywhere in the world,” Snyder said, “it would be Roatan.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.