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ART BEAT: Leaders share personal stories about holiday art

Art effects people differently through the holidays

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Local artist Mikki Dillon was inspired by a piece of music to create this painting “Snowy Night.” (Special Photo)

From the Christmas cards we send and receive to the carols we hear to the performances we attend of “Nutcracker” and “Christmas Carol,” the holidays abound with arts experiences. As the holidays are often such an emotional time, it is no wonder that particular arts encounters can hold special meaning, whether remembered or experienced recently.

Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris finds the spirit of the season in her town.

“In downtown historic Duluth, members of the Duluth Fine Art League added beautiful art to an old alley that is now a pedestrian walk way,” she said. “The art has inspired others to use the alley as a gathering place. Recently, The School of Rock had local musicians performing in the alley. People are asking if they can reserve the alley for special events. This is a great memory for me because I saw so many people, in different walks of life, working together to make an old, ignored alley in to a beautiful new place.”

President of the Gwinnett Rotary Club Paige Havens has a different sort of memory. She said, “Having the opportunity to play Mother Ginger in the Gwinnett Ballet’s performance of ‘The Nutcracker’ was such fun. Seeing how all of the magic happens behind the scenes was eye-opening and makes me appreciate so much more how it all comes together on stage.”

Visual artist Mikki Dillon was inspired by music.

“I painted ‘Snowy Evening’ because of a music composition I heard a few years ago … and wouldn’t it make a nice Christmas card?”

Another visual artist, Anita Stewart, could never be considered shy, but her holiday memory says otherwise.

“My mom and her sister decided that my cousin Cindy and I should recite ‘The Night Before Christmas’ in front of the entire family,” she said. “This was so traumatic for me. I was in my preteen years and my love for art had just surfaced. I was so quiet and shy and had few friends. Art was my only outlet for self expression. But my cousin and I recited the poem word for word. Forty years later, I am still standing in front of audiences talking about art, and Cindy still stands by my side.”

A poignant experience come from Suwanee’s Development Director Denise Brinson.

“Suwanee recently installed ‘Remembrance,’ a piece of public art incorporating a large, twisted piece of steel from the World Trade Center,” she said. “I check on the piece about once a week and most times when I am there, others are there as well. The last two times I’ve checked on the piece, I’ve heard stories of very personal loss.

“Visitors say that the holiday season spurs memories for them that are particularly special. They made a point to come and visit ‘Remembrance,’ saying that somehow this piece of art gives them a peace, a hope. … This is just one small example of what art can do. It may not always be transformative, but it can offer things that cannot otherwise be easily expressed or obtained.”

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.