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ART BEAT: Anita's ArtsCool offering plenty of planet-friendly classes

Anita Stewart has always been an innovative force in the Gwinnett visual arts community, so it is no wonder that she is launching a series of art classes at her school in Buford that have an environmentally friendly slant.

Anita's ArtsCool, located at 79 E. Moreno St. in Historic Buford, offers a continuous slate of art classes designed for kids ages 5 to 9, tweens ages 10 to 12, teens ages 13 to 17 and adults. Classes cover the basics such as drawing and painting, but there are other interesting experiences to be had, and some cross the line from visual art to music. "Dream Weaving" is a beginning weaver's class for kids. Tweens can take electric guitar classes. "French Art" is for teens, "Visualizing Memories" is for adults.

In addition to these intriguing educational experiences, "green" art classes are in development. There are delightful topics such as "Draw with charcoal from your grill," "Make paper from lint," "Make collages using glue from your fridge," "Do Chinese calligraphy using bamboo from your backyard," "Make baskets using kudzu" and "Spin wool into yarn using your pet's hair."

Plans for these classes are evolving as interest comes in to Anita's ArtsCool from potential students. The plan is to have a monthly class divided by the usual age groupings, with a different "green" project and teacher each week.

Stewart became interested in using recycled products to create art through her family. "I started my green ideas last year at my granddaughter's fifth-grade class at Level Creek. Her art teacher, Amber Arnold, asked me to come speak to her students about recycled art," Stewart said.

"About this time I also met a producer for Atlanta's 'People TV,' Adrienne Jennings, who began showing my work on her program. In March of 2010, we created our 'Birdwoman' together. 'Birdwoman' is a 5'6" human female figure made totally from recycled materials, and wearing Adrienne's dress," Stewart says.

"Birdwoman" soon began showing up in a number of Gwinnett area schools, such as Level Creek Elementary, Roberts Elementary and Norcross Elementary, helping to teach children that items one might throw away can have other, very creative uses.

"I would love to tie in with the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center on a recycled art related project," Stewart said. "I am getting braver about speaking to groups, especially about this subject."

Stewart enjoys speaking to the younger crowd. "It is so important to teach art to kids. It can make a big difference in a child's life. Our ArtsCool began its scholarship program based on an experience I had with a little boy who wouldn't open up at all until he discovered art. Art is not a luxury nor just for wealthy people! It is for everyone," Stewart said.

Stewart cites other groups getting involved with recycled art projects. For example, Mary Jean Harrison of the Buford Public Library recently performed a demonstration at Tannery Row using melted plastic bags to create a material she calls "plether." Stewart also was in attendance at last week's Folk Fest in Norcross where she saw wonderful skirts made from recycled men's ties. And who can forget the Gwinnett Public Library's wonderful display of clothing items made from "repurposed books and magazines?"

To find out more about "green art" and all the other classes available at 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. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.