Artist comes home to Hudgens Center

When visual artist and teacher Anita Stewart enjoyed her exhibition-opening reception at the Hudgens Center for the Arts on Aug. 28, it was truly a homecoming. Stewart's roots in the Gwinnett arts community go back to the early days of the Hudgens existence when it was known as the Gwinnett Fine Arts Center, housing the Gwinnett Council for the Arts.

Stewart said, "I recently found a piece of paper dated 1988 that the council had sent me, thanking me for my participation in the annual tapestry exhibition."

Even before the museum was built in Gwinnett Center, the Arts Council was active, and Stewart remembered winning a first-place ribbon in an art show that the Arts Council sponsored at Gwinnett Place Mall in 1984.

"I won for a pencil drawing of a sweet little red-headed girl," she said.

It was high time, then, she was given her own exhibition at the Hudgens Center, renamed in 1999 when the Children's Museum portion of the building was opened. The Aug. 28 reception kicked off the showing of mixed media paintings which will continue through Dec. 30. The show is described as "25 artworks of animals, birds, flowers, people, and rock art that slip in and out of reality."

Stewart's exhibition at the Hudgens Center compliments the existing African collection of Susan and William Rochfort now on view in many of the galleries. Stewart had visited South Africa not long ago and come away with many inspiring images and new work.

"I hope that my exhibition will give viewers a better understanding of South Africa," Stewart said. "This series was created to form a bridge from our world to theirs. I hope it leads to a greater appreciation of our 'cousins' in another land."

One subject which fascinated her in South Africa was the mysterious rock art. Another was youth.

"I teach art to 'tweens and teens as well as adults," she said, "and I put a lot of emphasis of these groups in this series of artwork without even thinking about it. It seems that teenagers are emphasized throughout: teen transport, and the gatekeeper and the elephant which were both tagged as teenagers during my visit. The sangorma ceremony I saw on the beach was for a teenage inductee, though I chose not to portray her."

Stewart does teach many teens these days in her "Anita's ArtsCool," formerly the Buford Academy of Art. Now located at 179 Moreno St., Suite D in downtown Historic Buford, kids and adults can all enjoy learning to create in many mediums. Fall classes are still forming, and several intriguing ones are starting in September for 4-year-olds, home-schoolers and teens.

"We will also be doing a neat workshop making musical instruments out of clay," she said. "That's slated for October."

Stewart's paintings are on view at the Hudgens Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The Hudgens Center is closed Sundays and Mondays. For more information about Anita's ArtsCool in Buford, call 678-230-4937 or visit the Web site at www.anitasartscool.com. Also be sure to visit Anita's personal artwork gallery at www.AnitaStewartGallery.com.

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