The collection, bequeathed in Marcher's will, arrived a year ago but was
retrieved from storage last month so that appraisers could examine the more than
500 pieces, including oil paintings, tribal artifacts, jewelry and carvings.
The gift wasn't a total surprise, said Welton, a social studies and Bible
teacher who sponsors the travel studies program, but the size of it was a bit of
"He had talked about it with us," Welton said of Marcher, an
American who lived half the year in Nairobi, Kenya, and half the year in Los
Angeles. "But we had no idea how extensive the collection was."
Among the pieces are ritual masks, weaponry and elaborate wood carvings, as
well as everyday items used by the Masai and Samburu tribes of East Africa.
Welton said he will keep some pieces for his classroom, like a Masai drum, an
ebony carving and a lion's tooth. "Visual things are what grab the kids'
attention," he said.
The school is considering selling the balance of the collection at auction to
raise money for the travel studies program.
An after-school honors course for high school students, the program teaches
teenagers about areas of the world and then takes them there.
Since 1984, Welton's students have visited such exotic spots as Tibet, Egypt,
Peru and Antarctica. In 1990, Welton met Marcher, who had served as a guide for
philanthropist David Rinker, a longtime supporter of Lake Worth Christian
The following year, Marcher led Welton and his students on their first trip
to Africa — exploring Kenya and other areas of East Africa.
This week, Welton begins travel studies classes on Rwanda and Tanzania. It's
a popular course, Welton said. Each year, more students apply to the program
than he can accept.
"It's such a cool opportunity," said 17-year-old Jessica Hackl, who
is one of 16 students going on this summer's trip. "When else could I do
It will be the third travel studies trip for Hackl, who last year went to
Australia and the year before to the Galapagos Islands. She's expecting Africa
to be an entirely different experience.
"I think that will be the biggest culture shock," Hackl said.
"I hope it makes me feel more appreciative of what I've got."
Welton said he prefers to take students to developing countries because
"it tells them a lot about what is important in life."
But traveling to far-flung locations can be expensive. The two-week trip to
Tanzania and Rwanda, where students will go on a gorilla safari, costs $5,000 a
Hackl said she is responsible for raising 10 percent of the trip's cost by
baby-sitting and working in her mother's real estate office. Her mom has pledged
to cover the rest.
But some students' families simply can't afford it, so they never apply.
That's where the auction of Marcher's art collection might be able to help,
The school this year is establishing a travel studies endowment that would
pay for student scholarships. Proceeds from an art auction would feed that fund.
Michael Nicholas, a partner in Appraisers International in West Palm Beach,
has examined the collection and is preparing to do research to determine its
"It's a multifaceted collection with a lot of nice older pieces, and a
lot of more contemporary pieces as well," Nicholas said.
Some of the older items — mostly masks and weaponry — appear to be from
the 19th century through the early 20th century, he said. Some of those will
likely be sent to New York for evaluation by Christie's auction house, he said.
"Overall, it probably has some real value," Nicholas said of the
collection. "But we want to get a second opinion from someone with a
specialization in African art."