0

Artists showcase creativity, promote literacy

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Hours of work - painted, sketched, and drawn expressions - are on display this month at the McDonough Public Library.

The Visual Artists Collective of Henry County, in its annual spring art show, is exhibiting artwork by local artists through May 30 - as part of the kick-off to the library's vacation reading program, known as "Be Creative at Your Library."

"I think [the showcase] has a very big variety of artwork, and it's very creative," says Carolyn Fuller, director of the Henry County Public Library System. "Of course, the library has all kinds of books on arts and crafts, quilting, painting, and making things - all of those things are creative activities."

The vacation reading program, Fuller says, will include weekly activities in arts and crafts and literacy-related projects. Registration for children and teenagers begins the week of June 1 at all five of Henry's library branches. The vacation reading program lasts through July.

"Educational studies and research have shown that children that participate in fun reading programs during the summer retain more of what they learn during the school year," Fuller says.

She says the artwork presented by the Visual Artists Collective also has an educational value. "Their artwork is definitely creative," Fuller says.

About 30 art pieces adorn display racks in the McDonough Public Library's rotunda. The pieces include colorful pencil drawings, photography, stained-glass art, and oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings.

Mary Anne Maslanka, the president of the Visual Artists Collective, says she hopes the exhibit will draw more attention to the arts and local talents. "Art is a part of who I am, and I cannot imagine life without it," says Maslanka, who is also a stained-glass artist. "Art is important to our humanity. It touches us on a spiritual level. It helps soften our existence.

"I think that applies to art in all its forms," she says. "Exhibits such as this small one at the library let all who view it see their world through the eyes of the artist ... and it makes them smile, I think. Don't we all need more of that?"

The Visual Artists Collective organization -- founded in 1993 to bring recognition and support to the area's talented artists - is an affiliate of the Southern Crescent Alliance of Visual Artists.

Maslanka says she joined the organization because of her interest in spreading awareness of the arts in Henry County. "There is something for everyone interested in some aspect of the arts here in the county, but people don't seem aware of that fact, or where to go to encounter the arts," she says. "[And] I enjoy meeting with other artists on a regular basis and working with them to offer opportunities for the people of the county to view the art and meet the artists who live and work here."

The 30-member organization, she adds, also volunteers time at local schools, helping introduce students to the various visual art forms. "My main goal, whether [it] happens during my tenure as president, or later," Maslanka explains, "is for Henry County to have a brick-and-mortar gallery showcasing the artistic talent in our county on a permanent and continuing basis, as well as offering a place where folks can come to learn how to create art for themselves."

She, herself, began creating art as a youngster. "I have been involved with something artistic my whole life," she says. "I learned to embroider, knit and crochet as a young adult, and have won awards for my hand needlework."

She says her mother and grandmother were each accomplished seamstresses and helped advance her artistic talents.

"They also taught me to love crafts of all kinds," Maslanka says. "Later in life, I discovered the art of stained glass, and have been working in that medium for over 20 years."

About 30 artists, showcased at the library, have their own stories about starting their careers and pastimes in the visual arts. Beginning at 2 p.m., on May 30, they all will be invited to the library to take part in an artists' reception, where members of the Visual Artists Collective will present awards for Best of Show, People's Choice, and Honorable mention.

The reception will free and open to the public, according to Maslanka. Those interested in joining the Visual Artists Collective, should visit the organization's web site.

To learn more about the Henry County Public Library System's vacation reading program, visit the library system's web site.

-

On the net:

Visual Arts Collective:

www.visualartistscollective.com

Henry County Public Library System: www.henry.public.lib.ga.us