MY ART STORY by

Davina Grace Hill

Douglasville
Georgia

In August 2015 the Cultural Arts Council coincidentally mirrored the NEA's anniversary approach. We asked community members, "What's on YOUR Walls?" and dedicated our August gallery exhibit to displaying their treasured art pieces ALONGSIDE the stories behind why they are so treasured. What a revelation! What a joy! We learned that people treasure the art to which they have a connection, having met the artist or being related to them. For example: we saw a lovely folk art piece snagged at an inattentive auction; we saw a flour sack whose teddy bear graphic had been carefully embroidered by a patron's father in the 1920s when they had no spare funds for entertainment; we saw evocative watercolors made memorable by the description that they depicted the Iranian/Syrian checkpoint that a local restauranteur's family had to cross for family reunions; we were delighted by an almost life size depiction of a mermaid that a local businesswoman refuses to believe isn't real; we learned to recognize the talents of a local pastor in the pen and ink drawing he had created for this wife; we were amazed to have people loan us their Renoir etching!

Overall we had 40 community members tell us their stories with 52 works of art. And we got repeated calls to revive the exhibit next year! We learned more about the sensibilities of our community, learned why they value their arts, and our gallery involved them in a more engaged and interactive way than usual. We had elected leaders (Governor Nathan Deal participated), and people from all walks of the community participate. Our gallery, located in a 1901 historically designated home, became the community's home with that exhibit; it helped us realize what one of America's original community arts founders, Robert Gard, eloquently stated as, "the articulate neighborly sharing of excellent in art."

Woman standing by a brightly colored painting of an underwater scene with a mermaid

Stephanie Bleakley with her mermaid. Photo by Cristhtian Perez Molina