By Josh Whitener
The colors of summer and American pride will soon fill the McDowell Arts Center gallery in Matthews as an art class for individuals with disabilities teams up with two art studios to host the center’s June exhibit.
The exhibit, “Sun and Stripes,” will debut on June 1 at the center, 123 McDowell St. E. in Matthews. A free opening reception is scheduled for June 7, a Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m., and families are encouraged to attend, according to Eileen Schwartz, who teaches classes at the center for people with disabilities. The exhibit runs through the end of June and is free and open to the public.
The students from Schwartz’s classes are teaming up with artists from Mosaic – A Lifespan Studio and The ARTS NC for the exhibit, which will feature 15 artists and more than 70 pieces of artwork. The artwork, most of which is created for wall hanging, consists of a variety of mediums focused on honoring veterans and ushering in the summer.
Schwartz said the majority of the artwork is created by students with disabilities, though Mosaic – an inclusion studio – is lending work from some artists without disabilities.
“We try to get away from using labels; all people are the same,” Schwartz said. “This is an opportunity for an exhibit to show the creative piece of an individual, regardless of a disability or no disability … I think it’s really important for any student or artist to exhibit their artwork.”
Schwartz said the inspiration for the show’s theme came from a fusion of her students’ talent as well as her own passion. Her classes for students with disabilities focus on creating artwork with bright colors, she said, which inspired the “sun” theme. Schwartz added her own passion is exhibiting a love for her country, which is where the “stripes” portion of the show comes in.
“I wanted to tie together that love of patriotism” with the anticipation of summer, she said. “… It’s been such a significant part of my life to promote patriotism through the arts. I wanted to be able to attract the interest of veterans.”
Schwartz is partnering with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9488, based in Charlotte, which is donating 150 small flags to give away to those who visit the exhibit. There also will be a canvas where visitors can write a message that will be sent to troops in Afghanistan.
The McDowell Arts Center began hosting art classes for students with disabilities earlier this year and Schwartz says the program is beginning to grow. She’s also teamed up with the center to host Art for Veterans, a series of arts classes that are free to all veterans.
During the “Sun and Stripes” show, Schwartz’s students will sell decorated clay pots for $10 to $20 each.
Schwartz said the “Sun and Stripes” exhibit is important because it gives her students a chance to show and sell their artwork to others, which fuels their desire to learn more.
“It’s so exciting for these students to participate in an art show and exhibit their art,” she said. “(For) people to view the art and want to buy the art, it gives (the students) such a great feeling of success and fuels them to create more art.”
For more information about the art classes for students with disabilities or Art for Veterans, go to www.matthewsfun.org and click on “McDowell Arts Center.” Information for Art for Veterans also is available at www.FlagsAcrossTheNation.org.
The McDowell Arts Center is open Monday to Friday 1 to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 6 p.m.