Elizabeth Neily

Artist | Storyteller | Photographer | Videographer | Museum Consultant

As a child, I learned the joys of exploring the beaches along the Bay of Fundy and the woodlands behind our ancestral farmhouse in rural Nova Scotia. The only thing missing was an understanding of what I was seeing. No adult shared with her the names of the plants and wildlife she saw and books were scarce. What information I was able to glean of my world was from my grandfather’s set of 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica’s and a later set my mother invested in when a door to door salesman visited. My father had spent WWII in Africa dredging for gold in what was known as the Gold Coast, now Ghana. I was intrigued by his stories of his pet parrot, his pet monkey and of huge snakes and, of course, the African people. My grandparents told stories of our family history going back to the Revolutionary War, of privateers, and of rum-runners. And there were ghost stories.

After graduating from Dalhousie University, Class of 1974, with a degree in English Literature and Anthropology, I was ready to meet the world head on. Unfortunately Atlantic Canada was in a deep recession and few jobs were to be had. The Federal government met this challenge with incentive grants, and so started a long career of moving from one grant funded position to another, until I ended up at the New Brunswick Community College, Fredericton, as a curriculum developer in Hospitality Services.

During the bitter winter of 1980, I fled to Florida. To say it was a cultural shock was an understatement. Canada had passed strict anti-billboard laws and as I drove down I-4 into Tampa, I was aghast at the seemingly endless barrage of advertisements that insulted my senses. Perhaps it was this crass materialism that would lead me to dig deeper into what Florida was all about?

After a series of unhappy starts in a business that manufactured store fixtures, I decided to try my hand at being an artist. I had studied miniature painting under the tutelage of Joan Willis and figured it could not be any more stressful than struggling to meet payroll and keep the lights on. I took up with a wildlife artist who got me hooked on painting Florida’s birds. Then in 1990 I happened to pick up a booklet about Florida’s first people written by the Ripley and Adelaide Bullen. It piqued my curiosity about a culture that seemed to have disappeared within a couple hundred years of European contact. Finding out more became an obsession. I wanted to tell their story, to paint them, but had very little idea of where to start. A few scholarly books had been published but none were available to the public. I joined Central Gulf Coast Archaeology Society. And then I happened to meet someone who told me I should talk to this artist called Hermann Trappman who was working as a park ranger at Boyd Hill Nature Park in St. Petersburg. We married three years later in 1993.

Hermann and I share the same passion for Florida, its natural environs, its native people, and its long and twisting history. He urged me to learn more about the history of women in Florida and I started performing and storytelling. Together we create exhibitions, books, lectures, and videos to tell this incredible story of Florida. We collaborate with musicians, storytellers, historians, archaeologists, paleontologists, environmentalists and museums to bring Florida’s story to you.

Museum Consultant

  • Educational Program Development
  • Collier County Museum, Naples FL
  • Dunedin Historical Museum, Dunedin FL
  • St. Petersburg Museum of Hisotry, St. Petersburg, FL
  • Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa FL

Living History Programs

Public Appearances as Maria Velasquez – “Women of the Spanish Main”

  • Fountain of Youth Park, St. Augustine
  • Studio@620, St. Petersburg, FL
  • DAR, St. Petersburg, FL
  • DeSoto National Memorial, Bradenton
  • Old Florida Festival, Collier County Museum, Naples
  • Calusa Days, Randell Research Center, Pinelands
  • Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa
  • Women’s Club of Clearwater Luncheon, Clearwater
  • Largo Public Library, Largo
  • Suncoasters Luncheon, Clearwater Beach
  • Safety Harbor Public Library, Safety Harbor
  • Menéndez Landing, 1567, Philippe Park, Safety Harbor
  • 16th Century Feast at Tampa Bay History Center
  • 16th Century Feast at Sacred Lands, St. Petersburg
  • Menéndez Birthday, St. Augustine
  • as Charlotte Fontaine Phillip – “Countess of Citrus – Second Seminole War”
  • Alafia River Rendezvous, Homeland
  • Dade Battle Reenactment, Bushnell
  • Philippi Park, Safety Harbort

Public Appearances as Kathleen Blake Watkins Coleman – “One of the Boys – Spanish American War”

  • Largo Public Library, Largo
  • Lightner Museum, St. Augustine
  • Henry B. Plant Museum, Tampa
  • Fort DeSoto Park, Pinellas County
  • Irish American Heritage Museum, Albany, Schenectady Library and New Haven Library, NY

Public Appearances as Memaw Trouble –“Gator Tales and Old-timey Florida”

  • Charlotte County Frontier Days, Port Charlotte
  • Alafia River Rendezvous, Homeland
  • Gulfport Art Village Stage, Gulfport
  • As Mirium Payne Quay – “Gator Huntin’ Gal”
  • Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa
  • Largo Public Library, Largo
  • Gulfport Public Library, Gulfport

Public Appearances as Grandmother Mangrove, “Calusa Storyteller”

  • Collier County Museum, Naples

Public Appearances as as Katherine Bell Tippets, The City Queen

  • St. Petersburg Audubon Centennial Celebration Banquet, St. Petersburg, 2009
  • St. Petersburg Museum of History, St. Petersburg

Film Production Credits

Neily Trappman Studio Productions

  • The Art of Hermann Trappman. 2009
  • Drake’s Raid, 2009
  • Seminole War Living History featuring Chris Kimball, 2010
  • Sunshine State Acoustic Music Camp, 2010
  • Menéndez Landing, 2011
  • Becoming American, 2011
  • Joseph Z and the Indian Stuff All Star Band, 2012
  • Panama Canal Museum: A Retrospective 1998-2012, 2012
  • Vision 2020, 2012
  • Making of America in Song, I. Mac Perry, 2013
  • Shape of Shells, 2014-2015