Jerrold “Jerry” Sliter Carton was born on May 2, 1947, and grew up in the town of Massena, in upstate New York, along the St. Lawrence River. He was the youngest son, of three, of the late James N. Carton, of Massena, and Vera L. Sliter of Cornwall, Ontario.
In his own words: “At the age of 14, already certain that I wanted to be an artist, I converted a room of my parents’ house into a studio. There, I spent the majority of my adolescence experimenting with media and techniques and avidly reading art texts. I received my B.F.A. degree in painting in 1970 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. During my time there, I was privileged to study with such notables as Roberto Matta, Christo, Kurt Sonderborg, Wayne Thibaud and George Segal. A quantity of my work, including sculpture has been exhibited and sold in galleries from New York to New Mexico for a number of years. ”
(This quote was taken directly from the book The First Sliters of Canada, by John Sliter. The quote was written by me as my Dad told me over the phone what to write for John’s book. He was in the hospital at the time the book was being made.)
Jerrold married his first wife in Minneapolis in 1969, and had two daughters, Tara and Carrie. They divorced in 1980.
From 1972 to his death in 2009, Jerrold worked as an Art Therapist at Butterfield Youth Services in Marshall, Missouri. His work with abused and neglected children there, as well as traumatic events in his own life, certainly influenced his art and the way he viewed the world. Many former residents have said they looked up to him as a father-figure and that he was their favorite and most memorable staff member from their stays at Butterfield.
The May 2009 Newsletter from Butterfield says:
“When Tom Butterfield hired the teacher/artist, “art therapy” was a young specialty in counseling. Social workers and counselors were finding that clients who were unable to talk about past trauma could express themselves through drawing and other creative mediums. Tom wanted to build a quality program for the youth being sent to BYS; hiring someone to implement an art therapy program seemed a good step to take. Nearly four decades later, who could have imagined how many lives would be touched? How many children would be helped? Jerry’s approach to his work with the kids was laid-back; his goal was for the youth to see all kinds of creativity occurring from working with wood to working with beads to working with dried gourds. There was photography, painting and sculpting. Whatever could be used was used for the purpose of engaging the child.
[There is] a story about Jerry and a canoe. A child came to live at BYS. He came to the art studio but wasn’t interested in doing any of the traditional stuff. He finally told Jerry he’d like to build a canoe. Jerry told him he was unsure how to build a canoe but they could find a book to tell them how. So they got the book, got the materials and got started. That child’s stay at BYS ended before the canoe was finished. Every now and then a youth would come through and question the project and Jerry would respond, “We can work on it together if you like.” Finally, sometime during the ’80’s Jerry helped a child finish the canoe. When that youth was discharged from BYS, the canoe went home with him.
It wasn’t simply that Jerry was willing to take on any project to engage the kids. His presence created a calm environment. His attitude was accepting. On a campus where staff is schooled on behavior management, the art studio remained free of behavior problems.
If you have visited our Child and Family Therapy Center you have seen the art-work lining the walls. When Jerry began his life work at Butterfield, he sketched every single child. Those framed sketches give a visitor more than a moment’s pause. They capture the hurt and sadness of one young life after another which was marked by child abuse or severe emotional problems. In addition to Jerry’s sketches of early residents, the walls are covered with the art of current residents. Jerry encouraged the creativity of the kids by displaying their work throughout the building.
And he was a master teacher. One of our current residents agreed to talk about Jerry but his sadness was evident in the slump of his shoulders and the soft huskiness of his voice. As we walked he pointed out some of his own artwork along the way. He fell silent. He said Jerry wanted him to paint the lilies. He went on to say that Jerry through his artwork was inspiring; that when Jerry was sad, looking at the art made him feel a little happier.” by Barb Mayfield
In late 2008 Jerrold became ill and was initially misdiagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and then Mononucleosis. After failed rounds of antibiotics he discovered his illness was actually lymphoma. He proceeded with chemotherapy, which his doctors told him would not permanently rid him of his rare type of lymphoma, angio-immunoblastic t-cell lymphoma. He then applied, and was accepted into a stem cell transplant research program at Washington University’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital. On April 1, 2009 he received his transplant and he seemed to be doing well with it. But on April 8th, during a platelet transfusion, he suffered cardiac arrest, and was unable to be stabilized for over twenty minutes. As a result, he suffered severe brain injury. He passed away on April 14, 2009.