Being an Artist: A Way of Life is the newest upcoming exhibit opening at Gallery 208 on Feb. 8. What defines the nature of being an artist sounds like a riddle: "inside out, outside in." This exhibit will showcase artists with different art careers but live the riddle by remaining practicing artists. Being an Artist: A Way of Life includes a variety of styles, confirming how each artist experiences the "outside in," resulting in the expression of those experiences, "inside out."
Being an Artist: A Way of Life is one of four local exhibits in February and March celebrating how a historically black university (HBCU), Fayetteville State University, enriches the local, regional and national cultural landscapes.
HBCUs were founded in the 1800s to provide Black Americans an opportunity for higher education. Like all institutions across America, it was the path to becoming successful academically and professionally. Even today, black graduates of HBCUs are significantly more likely to have felt supported while in college than graduating from predominantly white institutions.
Fayetteville State University was established in 1867. Fast forward to the present, HBCUs now provide diverse learning environments for a diverse student population. Curating Being an Artist: A Way of Life is as much my story, after teaching at an HBCU for 29 years, as it is the 20 alumni who attended FSU and were selected to exhibit together. Like all my art colleagues, I have had the honor of having the participating artists in my classes, encouraging their development, witnessing their mastery of talent. And now sharing the courage they show continuing to be artists after graduating.
The exhibit is unique for several reasons. First and foremost, it takes courage to be an artist. Vulnerability is a consequence of expressing yourself to the public; courage requires centeredness within yourself and an assertion of self. It is rare to show a group of artists who have all attended the same university and see how their careers have unfolded due to their talent, perseverance, and courage. In the exhibit, each artist has a profile text panel explaining why being an artist is important to them and their way of life.
Second, many parents discourage their children from majoring in visual art because of the starving artist perception that lingers in our culture. Each text panel includes different art jobs and art careers of the artists in the exhibit.
This article below includes abridged versions of the art-related jobs, where each artist is located and answers explaining why they made personal choices for art to be their lifestyle.
Professional Actor and Performance Artist, New York City, NY.
"Being an artist is not a choice; it is the thread by which I weave my life."
Graphic Designer for Champion Media and Results Optimized, Lumberton, NC:
"Art is simply everyday life for me. It was a huge part of my upbringing, and I want to pass that down to my children as well."
Cumberland County Art Educator, Fayetteville, NC.
"Creativity is the core of who I am that can't be ignored."
G1-12 International School, Taiwan, recently moved to Fayetteville, NC.
"Being an artist is my career path; it is my preferred way of life."
Assistant Curator Ellington White Contemporary Gallery, Fayetteville, NC.
"Art continues to be a form of therapy for me, allowing me to leave the cares and stresses of everyday life outside the studio doors. I love the mess, the physicality of materials."
Illustrator and Designer for a marketing firm, Orlando, FL.
"I am a visual storyteller; I can't think of myself as anything else."
City of Fayetteville Graphic Production Supervisor, Fayetteville, NC.
"Being an artist brings me joy and allows me to share those moments with others. I can draw inspiration from all aspects of life."
Registered Art Therapist Department of Veteran Affairs, West Haven, CT.
"I use art every day as a healing tool both for myself and the Veterans I serve."
Professional Artist, Fayetteville, NC.
"The freedom to express the emotions we sometimes can't explain. We all have something to give to the world."
Boston Center for the Arts two-year Residency Program, Boston, MA.
"Research and creating are an integral part of who I am along with constant curiosity and a thirst for knowledge."
UX/UI Design Intern at IBEX, Atlanta, GA.
"Art helps me determine what emotional state I'm in, in times where I'm not even sure. Art helps me express my view of the human psyche and the state of the world spiritually."
Art Faculty at Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC.
"I consider my artwork political; there is always something to say! Making art makes me feel good about myself."
Illustrator and Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL.
"I was always an artist. I teach art and make it."
Digital Projects Graduate Services Assistant at the University of Texas, Denton, TX.
"My art allows me to be the voice of those who may never be heard. I believe art, my art, can change hearts and minds, open eyes, reveal truths and change the world."
Art Specialist-Ederle Art Center, Vicenza Italy, presently lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
"Visual imagery provides a sort of universal language by which viewers can interpret individually. Creating art is a source of catharsis. I am most myself when I am making art."
Painting Instructor, Cape Fear Studios, and FTCC Continuing Education lives in Broadway, NC.
"The process of creating is what my heart desires. The act of making helps me express what I struggle to express in words."
Lead Sculptor, Kerns Studio Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, LA.
"Art is inseparable from life. It is the most fulfilling endeavor both in the creation and the continued learning of skills and self."
Jean Newton Unser (Dieter):
Art teacher in NC schools lives in San Antonio, Texas.
"As an artist, I am a collector, a maker, a participant, and support other artists be an artist."
Self Employed Professional Artist, Willow Spring, North Carolina.
"I see my entire living space as a studio and canvas. I am lucky to have a life where I can work at my own pace and have plenty of space to create."
Master of Fine Arts in Photography graduate student, Tyler School of Art & Architecture at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
"Being an artist is embracing my ancestral calling of being a visual griot. Art saved my life, but photography changed my life."
Lastly, a reason for the exhibit is to share the diverse talent and styles of 20 artists. Jean Newton Unser (Dieter) from San Antonio, Texas, exhibits her refreshing approach to watercolors in a soothing painting titled Landscape. Unser's painterly work is in stark contrast to Ebony Morlte-Oates' digital work titled Layered Purging. Similar in color, Morlte-Oates' portrait is a flattened contemporary portrait evoking a psychological state of being.
Two artists have explored the portrait genre. Shantel Scott is exhibiting a female reduced to line, black and white. In her digital vector drawing titled Fruits of Self Trust, Scott has presented us with a stylized contour drawing - an encounter with a female cosmic oracle. Scott's minimalist approach is the exact opposite of Angela Stout's. Stout is the only realistic painter in the exhibit and exhibits a meticulously painted portrait titled His Story. Stout uses light in her painting to reveal meaning about the male subject; a crackled background texture compliments the subject's strength and permanence, and gaze.
Visitors to Being an Artist: A Way of Life should plan on spending time with the exhibit. A variety of styles and mediums to enjoy, but it will take some time to read the artist's profile text panel. The panel has an image of the artist, their art jobs, statements about attending an HBCU for their education, statements about art as a lifestyle, and links to the artists' website or instructional YouTube videos.
The exhibit opens at Gallery 208, Feb. 8 at 208 Rowan Street from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The public is invited to the opening.
The exhibit will remain in the gallery until late March. The gallery is open Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For information on the show, call 910-484-6200.