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Stewart's solo exhibition on display at Gwinnett courthouse

Gwinnett visual artist Anita Stewart remembers the first award she ever received for her work. It was 1985, and she was competing in a show at Gwinnett Place Mall.

Many years and awards later, this prolific painter is being celebrated with a showing of 25 to 30 pieces at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville. The exhibit runs today through Nov. 28.

A special reception, open to the public, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. The work to be shown at the courthouse will include award-winning pieces plus paintings Stewart created while in South Africa this past spring.

"I have nine paintings in the show that I painted in South Africa," she said. "These are done with interference blue pigment and acrylic placed on cloth to become my African Quilt. On it are guinea fowl, fangi pani, bougainvillea and a kootie bird."

Stewart's work is on display in many prominent areas around Gwinnett and Georgia. She has had work hang in the Atlanta mayor's office and in the office of the Georgia Secretary of State.

Just recently, she was delighted to receive recognition for work she had done for the city of Suwanee. Portrayals of Bluebell, the Butterfly Cow, can be seen on the town's playground.

Stewart is not finished with Suwanee, as she and a few fellow painters have recently been painting plein air-style paintings at the Suwanee Farmers Market. This is in addition to her continued interest with visual elements she discovered in South Africa.

"My trip to South Africa has really spurred me to investigate more about rock paintings," she said. "I have Native American heritage, and I have started researching Native American rock-painting art. There is so much more to it than just animals."

She also left a bit of herself in South Africa. "I left some paintings with my friend Jill to sell in Capetown."

Stewart also runs her own art school, Anita's ArtsCool, at 179 D Moreno St. in Buford. She is certified to teach art in the state of Georgia and has been teaching since 1977.

She has also been a major force in the development of downtown Buford. Her art school had been on Main Street in Buford for years until her recent move - just around the corner.

"Our new location gives us so much more room. We have added 'Manga Mania' and a preschool art class, and we have a wide range of ages taking pottery now," Stewart said. "Some of our adult students are having so much fun that they are asking if the pottery classes can be extended to twice as long."

To learn more about Stewart, the exhibition and the art school, visit www.anitasartscool.com. To enjoy a gallery of her artwork, visit www.anitastewartgallery.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.