By Kathy Jefcoats
To enjoy the natural beauty Georgia has to offer, one can take several months wandering the state, from the coast to the mountains to the inner region.
Or make one trip to Clayton College & State University and take in those same wonders captured on canvas by 34 local artists. The paintings make up "Georgia Through the Artist's Eye," a traveling exhibit on display through May at the Harry S. Downs Center for Continuing Education.
For more literal art offerings, enthusiasts can take advantage of the Hampton Depot's May presentation, "Gates of Henry," a collection of photos showing off the splendor of Henry County.
Both exhibits fall under the umbrella of the Southern Crescent Alliance of Visual Artists, created in 1997 to recognize the talents of artists living in 10 counties south of Atlanta. Henry County's Visual Artists Collective and Clayton County's Arts Clayton are two of 13 artists associations in those 10 counties.
Lynn McMeans of Stockbridge is president of the 11-year-old Henry collective and took home the People's Choice Award for her photo entry in Hampton. Her watercolor of the lighthouse at Sapelo Marsh is on display at Clayton College.
"I have always wanted to paint and when my kids got grown, I decided it was now or never," said McMeans. "I paint all kinds of things but I do a lot of lighthouses."
Clayton County residents Steve Truax and wife Heide Ussery-Truax also enjoy the Georgia scenery and make it a theme of their own artwork. Steve's rendition of Toccoa Falls and Heide's interpretation of the John Ross house, north of Kennesaw, are in the Clayton exhibit.
"We just love north Georgia and travel there frequently," said Steve. "We take our artist supplies with us."
They've developed their affectation for the state's natural wonders since emigrating here from other countries Steve is from Canada, Heide is a German native from near Stuttgart. Married for 17 years, the two do most everything together, including exploring their love of art.
"We took art lessons together and fought over our first paint set when it arrived, arguing over who got to use it first," he said. "Heide's artistic talents were obvious early on but mine weren't as easily recognizable."
But the two studied with Lowell Speers, Robert Warren, Sterling Edwards, Norma Poulos, Keith Hone and Bill Janney and Steve's abilities evolved.
"My level of capability has improved and has ever since we trained and studied with different people," he said. "We've had a lot of fun over the years."
The two participated in SCAVA's first project, last year's "Women of Substance" exhibit, the group's first attempt at a traveling show. Steve is past president of the Clayton Art Alliance and is vice president of the Artists Guild of Clayton County. He and Heide have been recognized for their artistic efforts.
Fellow Clayton County artist Sandra Rogers Hill has also won accolades for her work. Her portrayal of High Falls State Park, on exhibit at the college, was chosen by Georgia Clean and Beautiful to be used in an upcoming publicity campaign.
"I've drawn since I was little," she said. "My dad bought me my first set of paints when I was 13 and I've kept my maiden name of Rogers to honor him. He got me started and has remained my biggest critic."
Hill teaches art to children and adults at the Arts Clayton gallery and paints portraits on the side.
"So far I've had great experience with local residents," said Hill. "Parents bring their kids in and it's just been great. I also do summer arts camp."
Arts Clayton gallery manager Terri Williamson said art has always been such an important aspect of society and the Southern Crescent region of Georgia is no different.
"We have some amazing artists on the south side of Atlanta," said Williamson. "There is a great deal of talent here and that's evident every month. We have a new and exciting exhibit here every month."
Arts Clayton also features a different artist each month in the Downs Center Atrium at the college.
A public reception where ribbons will be awarded to artists is planned May 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the atrium.
The Clayton College paintings can be viewed online at www.scavagroup.com. For more information about SCAVA, call President Barbara Scruggs at 770-583-2093.