Autumn in Salem


By Sarah West

Hammer and nails, paint and paper, walls for a stateroom and pencils for multitudes. Clouds roll in and breezes chill brown leaves that rustle past the pumpkins. Lines of 44 and 72 form.
They take their place walking in rows, and then each sit silently awaiting their introduction. Names are announced, and paper is presented. Each one reaches for a pencil and again names are written.
Measured with fingers, lines are shaped and drawn. Like clay upon a potter’s wheel, lumps then yield to define the subject. Sighs relent to greater confidence. One’s perceived limitations fade away. This new discovery reveals potential skill through capability. When asked, “what would you like to become?”
Some answer with aspirations for careers in design, construction, veterinary science, performance arts or even sports. And for those whom apprehension has long locked the dreamers door, a drawing upon paper seems to turn the key showing them the many things of which they are innately capable.
“There is no art without contemplation”- Robert Henri is quoted. Initially a stranger to all sixth graders, the words of history’s American Painter finds resonance with them. Through the sharing of a quote, lthey have been introduced to him. They proudly hold up their studies, pictures well drawn. They now grasp dimension, and each one’s perspective is sharper as the line for class dismissal is formed.
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 the founder of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, a center for cultural arts, Smiths Station’s premier fine-arts destination. She is the appointed official artist to the city of Smiths Station, a Lee County syndicated columnist and 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 and City Hall Art Galleries. She is a founding member of the Smiths 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. To learn more about her work and activism, visit


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