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Constance Alexander: Murray Art Guild workshop taps into participants’ creativity, one dab at a time

When Debi Henry Danielson announces, “I start with rules, but I like to break them,” participants in the workshop she is conducting at the Murray Art Guild chuckle and nod in agreement.

“Whoo-hoo,” one of them cheers.

A participant in the printmaking workshop shows off her work (Photo provided)

This is the kick-off session of WATCHing ArtWork, a creative partnership between Murray Art Guild (MAG) and Murray’s W.A.T.C.H., Inc. The first project involves a simple form of printmaking. Finished prints will be available for purchase in local businesses and organizations, with proceeds funding additional creative opportunities for WATCH participants.

W.A.T.C.H., Inc. (WATCH) is the only nonprofit, on-site provider in Calloway County serving adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities or acquired brain injury. MAG is Murray’s only community arts center focused on arts enrichment for all. In recent years, these two organizations collaborated on a public art project, through a grant from Kentucky Arts Council. The unique floral mosaic, on view outside MAG, extends that earlier effort.

Brainstorming begins with discussion of upcoming holidays. Mention of July 4 inspires talk of red, white, and blue. When one WATCH artist expresses a desire to create an American flag design, WATCH Activity Coordinator Donna Dick uses her phone to share an image of Old Glory.

Before work can proceed, each artist has to pin down the white material that is the “canvas” for their creative designs.

“Get all four corners, and don’t forget to put one in the middle,” Danielson advises. “Be careful. Don’t poke yourself.”

Preparing a stamp for printing (Photo provided)

Paired off to work in either red or blue as a start, the artists learn the importance of sticking to one hue at a time. They are instructed to dab only a little paint onto the stamp before applying color to the white cloth.

“Dab, dab, dab, dab, dab,” Danielson says as she demonstrates.

“I want to use brown,” one man insists and Debi hands him what he asks for.

“What’s great about this, you can’t go wrong,” she remarks. “Your pattern can be whatever feels right to you.”

Turning to the whole group, she holds up a box for all to see. “Anyone who doesn’t like to get their hands dirty, I have gloves for you.”

“I love to get my hands dirty,” a participant pipes up.

As creative confidence grows, designs emerge. Someone discovers a passion for polka dots by using a small round sponge. Another creates vibrant red stripes against the stark white background. Settling into their work, the chatter fades. They help each other, as needed, and listen to feedback and gentle instructions from Danielson.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

“Be sure not to use too much paint,” she advises. “Just tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.”

As completed prints are hung up to dry, tidying begins. A couple of participants start a second piece.

“I didn’t have this idea until the last moment,” one says.

“If you’re still working, that’s fine. If you’re finished, you can help clean up,” Danielson suggests.

Without hesitation, one of the men collects all the paint cups. Another inspects a series of portraits on the wall that include diverse artists like Jacob Lawrence, Romaire Beardon, Frido Kahlo, Kusamo, and renowned Kentucky sculptor Ed Hamilton.

“Someday I’d like to make something like that,” an artist/WATCH participant declares. “To show my appreciation. Show I support them. I have the love of Jesus in my heart.”

As the group prepares to exit and board the WATCH van, Danielson reminds them that the next step for the works-in-progress is to set the designs in place by ironing them.

“And then we sew tags on them,” she adds.

“I can do that by hand,” someone offers.

After a flurry of final photos and farewells, the WATCH artists are gone until their next visit, two weeks hence.

The Community Foundation of West Kentucky’s Philanthropy 360 program and a donation from Cliff and Bonnie Higginson fund WATCHing ArtWork. For more information, log on to www.murrayartguild.org and www.murraywatch.org.

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One Comment

  1. Anne Adams says:

    Connie, I’m so happy to be able to continue enjoying your wonderful articles!

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