A place for everyone

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By Sarah West

Reminded of the fruitful enrichment in process, I stand amid the studio surrounded by many students who have driven from miles around to attend the Thursday afternoon art class. Prompted by a current topic in conversation, I share with them observations from varying experiences. I go on to explain the therapeutic benefits of participating in cultural art activities, and relate this to the practice of meditation, prayer and various initiatives for improved mental and physical health. While we may come from different backgrounds, common threads which seem to unite all in studio are the threads of interest, self-improvement, exploration and the need to make space. As the conversation concludes, I commend every individual on their commitment to making time for them. I remind them, that for the hour they spend in studio each week, the whole world benefits. Through art, they have chosen to take a time out; they have afforded themselves just one hour to pause, breathe, explore, earn and create something that imparts joy to the viewer. Whether the viewer be oneself or others, the joy derived from experiences like this extends far beyond the canvas framework, and studio perimeters.
As young children assemble for their elementary school’s after-school art class, each one ties their apron and finds their place at an easel. Throughout the class, the immersive atmosphere directs attention towards art history, intriguing art styles, supplies and techniques. The hour passes quickly. As parents arrive, many children remain diligently painting, determined to reach their own goal for the day’s lesson.
As we bid our weekly farewell, and fold the last of untied aprons, we catalog every student’s artwork and supplies for their return next week. We pack away the last of the mid-progression paintings with particular care, noting every students pride for their work. Their confidence and desire to apply what they have learned is evident.
Back at the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, we gather round and review our Spring Program Schedule.
This is a time to thrive, and we recognize a place to make space for another class, providing more enriching opportunities for everyone.
Sarah West serves the Opelika Observer as a contributing columnist, with written works of cultural arts relevance and prose. She is a preservation and conservation advocate, activist, and visual artist of American Illustration with a focus on Regional Narrative Painting. She is founder of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, A Center for Cultural Arts, Smiths Station, Alabama’s premier fine arts destination. She is the appointed Official Artist to the City of Smiths Station, a Lee County syndicated columnist, the director of her art center’s Cultural Arts Outreach Initiative which partners with local schools to make the arts accessible to all. She also serves a chief curator to the City of Smiths Station, City Hall Art Galleries. She is a founding member of the Smith Station Historic Commission. She is a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Board- Cary Center, Auburn University College of Human Science. She is an elected member of the Society of Illustrators- NYC. She mentors art students of every age through weekly classes at her studio located in the heart of Smiths Station, Alabama. To learn more about her work and activism visit Sarah West Fine Art Gallery

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