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Community Portrait: Artists’ group effort a sum of multiple ideas

Community Portrait
By: Story and photos Michael Kirby
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What happens when 18 creative artists get together and pour their artistic energy into a group project thriving on each other’s creative ideas? You get an incredible piece of artwork alive with the souls of each of the artists involved. That is just what Sondra Hersh’s art students accomplished working together for two months. When the Auburn Art Walk 2011 season kicked off April 14, their large group project was put on display and is the centerpiece of the Outside the Box show at The Arts Building Gallery Downtown. The project, titled “Beacon of Light,” is a spectacular 44-piece installation made of individual panels, some painted, some embedded with glass, mesh or other materials. Conceived individually, each is a work of art on its own, but when assembled together becomes quite impressive as it hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the show. The project was launched by artist and art instructor, Hersh, as a group project for her mixed-media art students. Hersh teaches ongoing art classes in her studio in Downtown Auburn. Each of her 18 students created numerous pieces, with personal insights encouraged as a theme. The art installation was then precisely installed over a 12-hour period before the show. The theme and title, “Beacon of Light,” meant something different to each of the students and the process of collaboration among the students was an unexpected highlight of the ever-evolving concept as the project came together. “The project was a huge undertaking. One student put over 25 hours into making one of her pieces,” Hersh said. “My stuff is all about relationships right now,” said participant Joan Gunton, revealing some of the personal insight that went into her pieces for the project. “The pieces I created were a depiction of flight into light, uplifting pieces painted with mesh and a little glass,” Judy Owen said. Participant Don Antram’s nine pieces anchor the installation. “Sandra suggested that I do roses, representing the protection of the feminine aspect of the divine. I also did half the pieces representing my internal light, powerful and strong, radiating out from the center of the project.” The project was not without challenges. The art was nearly destroyed when a tree fell through Hersh’s home studio containing the art pieces during one of the recent powerful storms. Miraculously, all the pieces survived unharmed as Hersh’s husband, Alan, crawled through the destroyed structure to safely retrieve the elements in the pouring rain. The Beacon of Light group art piece will be on display at The Arts Building Gallery, 808 Lincoln Way in Auburn until Saturday, May 14, when all the Outside the Box art entries will be auctioned off during a special gala event at the gallery. The funds raised by the art pieces will benefit PlacerArts locally. Reflecting on the strength of the finished group art piece and her experience, Gunton observed, “It was interesting to watch the evolution of the pieces, because most didn’t end up as originally envisioned, and the sum of the projects parts is really much bigger than all its pieces.”