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ART BEAT: Visual artist Anita Stewart creates bird woman

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Anita Stewart's life is never dull. If she isn't teaching art classes at her "Anita's ArtsCool," she is putting up exhibitions of her work or creating South African Pinky Pinkys in her spare time. Her latest Pinky Pinky has now made a television debut and has been given the unforgettable name of Miss Shabalabadingdong by one of Anita's students.

A Pinky Pinky is a three-dimensional South African version of the Boogie Man, and Anita had seen a whole installation of them in a Capetown, South Africa, exhibition. That was 2007. Since then, Anita has made her own version out of recycled materials, but her latest creation came about from a more friendly inspiration.

Anita recently met and befriended Adrianne Jenning who is a producer for Channel 24, a public broadcasting station in Atlanta. Anita and Adrienne discovered that they were both nicknamed "Bird," and since she had asked Anita to bring her art to be featured on her television show called "Local to Legendary," Anita had an idea.

"I thought it would be a real treat to design a bird woman Pinky Pinky to celebrate our nickname," Stewart said. "So I decided to make a life-sized sculpture and asked friends to help dress her. This bird woman is a compilation of gifts from many people -- a real community project."

The bird woman is made of recycled materials and includes everything from a bright pink wig to kudzu vines. The television show airs on Tuesday evenings on channel 24 in Atlanta, but Gwinnett viewers can see it via live streaming on their computers. The show is repeated often, so check Atlanta listings for time and topic.

Anita made a presentation at Suwanee's Level Creek Elementary recently, showing students how to create art out of recycled materials by using the bird woman as an example. In return, she asked the students to name her creation.

"I got suggestions from 'Bob' and 'Ms. Feathers,' but the winning name was 'Miss Shabalabadingdong.' You can't say that without smiling," Stewart said.

Miss Shabalabadingdong currently sits alongside Anita in her car, and she will be putting in an appearance for Suwanee Day in September.

Anita will be returning to South Africa in August, and she says, "Who knows what crazy art will result from that trip?"

Artwork inspired by her previous trip can be found at AfricArt Gallery at 162 E. Crogan St. in Lawrenceville. More of Anita's work is on view at Studio 8 Gallery at 355 Brogdon Road, Suite 201 in Suwanee, and at the Suwanee Public Library as a part of the Buford Artist Group exhibition.

ArtsCool students work will be put up at the Kroger store on Buford Highway in Buford on Monday and Tuesday. Kroger is hosting a reception for Buford students and their parents from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, and the public is invited. "The store manager, Steve Pagel, is very excited about this and hopes to put a picture of our kids and their artwork in the Kroger newsletter," Stewarts said.

Later that week, Anita will be teaching a workshop at DeVry Business College on July 31.

"It's a workshop for teachers who are looking for ways to incorporate their right brain thinking and hands on activities with subjects like math, science, language arts, social sciences and psychology," Stewart said.

Anita's ArtsCool itself continues to have classes for all ages. Located at 179 Moreno St., Suite D, in Buford, budding artists can participate in everything from clay to cartooning to basic painting and drawing. For information about Anita's ArtsCool, visit the website at www.anitasartscool.com or call 678-230-4937.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts.

E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.