Monday, February 27, 2012

Art Appreciation 101: Supporting Local Artists

Angels for Joplin
Created by Joplin artist, Tricia Courtney

Twenty years ago, when I first moved to Joplin, I was a young newlywed excited about finally living in the same city as my college-sweetheart-turned-lawyer husband after a three year long-distance relationship.  We were young DINK’s (Double Income, No Kids) who were pretty elated about finally achieving our recently acquired "married" status in life. 

Moving to Joplin was a something of a shock for me.  The pace was quite a bit slower than I had become accustomed to from living in a very large state university setting followed by a brief stint in a major-league city.  But, I kind of liked it.  I liked going to the grocery and seeing the same people almost every time (gasp! I even learned some of the employees' names!)  I enjoyed having the bank tellers call me by my first name as I pulled up to the drive-thru.  I also enjoyed being able to get to work in about five minutes flat (this latter perk was, and always will be, worth the move 129 miles south).

One thing that I quickly came to appreciate about Joplin, though, was the abundance of artistic talent that resides in the area.  One of my favorite memories from when I first moved here was the day that I first wandered into a little shop/gallery called “Cleo’s Picture Framing and Design", which was a block away from my husband’s former office.  Cleo’s is a one-of-a-kind shop where you can buy anything from original pieces of art by local artists to unique poster prints to vintage consignment pieces.  The first time I walked into Cleo’s I looked up on the wall behind the register and saw one of the most beautiful contemporary paintings I have ever seen.  It was a piece by a man named Bill Rainey, who, according to Cleo, had recently relocated from Joplin to Chicago in order to pursue his budding art career.  The price? A mere $900.  I could tell I was going to be spending a lot of time at Cleo’s because there was no way I could afford to purchase that piece to bring home and enjoy in the privacy of my own domicile. 

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to come across a few pieces by local artists that were more in line with my budget, as well as find and appreciate others that I still aspire to, some day, be able to find a way to fit into my personal collection.

Since May 22nd, many of these artists have used their creative expression as a form of therapy.  In appreciation for what they do to help us see all the beauty that still exists in this world, I would like to introduce you to some of my favorites, and encourage you to visit their websites and perhaps procure a piece of art of your own.

Tricia Courtney's Buzzlewics
Tricia Courtney:  Tricia is, and always has been, one of my favorite artists – anywhere.  In addition to her whimsical characters, the Buzzlewics, she also creates three-dimensional landscape pieces that are unlike anything I have ever seen before.  You can literally feel the leaves and bark on her trees, and the materials she uses give an overall look of richness unmatched by any other contemporary artist I’ve seen.  Since the tornado, Tricia has also embarked on an artistic adventure, “Angels for Joplin”, where she uses debris collected after the tornado to create amazing “angel” sculptures.
Love the detail in this Tricia Courtney painting!

Debbie Reed:  Debbie specializes in mixed-media.  Whether she uses watercolors or oils, her skilled usage of color and light in her paintings enables her to create pieces that delight the senses.

Margie Moss:  Margie is quite possibly one of the most energetic women I know!  Not only does she run her own interior decorating business, “Joplin Decorating Center” (so easy to work with - no matter what your budget!), but she has also joined together with several other local artists to open “Local Color Art Gallery”, which is located inside the beautifully renovated Gryphon Building. "Local Color" is an artists’ co-op where you can find artists working in the studio or sign yourself (or your kids) up to take classes.  They also sponsor workshops presented by nationally-known artists.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to also mention ArtFeeds and Spiva Art Center.  Both of these organizations have worked to provide an opportunity for children to express themselves through art.  After the tornado, many children and their families were displaced, and Art Feeds and Spiva have worked hard to provide an environment that encourages children to use many different types of artistic expression in order to cope with the chaos around them.

Lastly, I want to mention the Downtown Alliance and their efforts to promote local artists through their monthly Third Thursday Art Walks.  Less than a month after the tornado swept through town, organizers successfully hosted June’s ThirdThursday, providing community members a much-needed opportunity to get together to relax and enjoy the beauty of life in Joplin.

Even if you don’t live in Joplin, I know you have local artists who contribute to your community’s quality of life.  Take time to explore their work and support those who add beauty to your own life.  It’s the least you can do to show your appreciation for their willingness to share their talent with the world. J

Join the discussion!  What does your community do to support its local artists?  Have you ever bought anything from a local artisan?

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