On a recent Friday, Ana Sumner put the finishing touches on a food table garnered with cheese trays, dainty deserts, and a towering floral arrangement. “I hope everything looks OK,” she said.
Near the reception area, a prominent display of gift baskets chock full of gourmet items stood ready to be given as door prizes. A few minutes before the official opening time, guitarist Eli Wittman plugged his instrument into an amplifier and began to strum jazz. On the walls hung an artful installation of works by local artists.
This may sound like a typical art show reception, but the exhibit now on view at the Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex is not your typical art show.
While most art exhibits are conceived as a self-contained event (you go, you view the works, and you leave), the Preview Exhibition is more like a kickoff party. The show launches the Western Wake Artists’ Studio Tour, which will take place next month. Eighteen local artists will open the doors to their studios to the public for a self-guided tour November 9-11. “Who are the artists in YOUR neighborhood?” reads the tagline on the organization’s blog.
The goal of the Preview Exhibition is to “provide an opportunity for people to see a sample of the artwork being created in the local community,” said Cynthia Mollenkopf, whose felt creations range from wearable hats to surreal figurative wall hangings. “And to help people decide which artists they want to visit during the tour.”
The show has no particular theme, but everyone seems to agree it is surprisingly is balanced in terms of aesthetics and quality. “It came together really well,” said Jane Hanck, the artist who oversaw the installation of the works.
On view are paintings in acrylic and oil; paintings on silk; works in felt, embroidery, glass, and mixed media; photography and pen and ink drawings. The variety of media reflects the range of artistic experience and talent represented. Many of the artists exhibit their works regularly at festivals, art centers, and local galleries.
One characteristic that all the artists share is the desire to share their enthusiasm for their art. Painters Christine MacLellan and Michelle McElroy teach their craft. “I just got a new student,” said MacLellan, who offers classes five days a week from her home studio in Cary.
Participating in shows offers artists more than exposure. Sometimes a solitary artist simply needs a good dose of moral support. Half way through the reception, as a small crowd made its way through the galleries and music filled the air, one visitor left briefly. Julie Majkowsi, a designer and fiber artist (whose work is not featured in the show), offered a handmade satchel to her friend, Michelle McElroy. “Oh, it matches my dress!” she exclaimed as she put away her keys and cell phone. “It’s perfect!”
The Western Wake Artists’ Studio Tour Preview Exhibition runs through thru Oct. 26. The Western Wake Artists’ Studio Tour is Nov. 9-11. Participating artists and info at www.wwast.org