Young at Art Program
Young and Old Come Together as Artists
By DERRICK KEETON | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER | May 19, 2009*** Published: May 18, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***
Marvin Wellons, 18, loves art, loves capturing the beauty of a landscape on a piece of paper, and loves sharing his passion with others.
Alex Thompson, 15, loves finding news ways of expressing her creativity.
Both found outlets for those desires in the Young at Art program, a class that brings together young and old to experience a variety of artistic mediums. At the end of the class, the students' works are exhibited at the Bristol Public Library, where an April reception attracted about 100 guests to view the latest batch.
"The people enjoy it and are amazed with the quality of the work considering the age and how long the students have been taking art classes," said Young at Art instructor Carlene Presnell. "What we strive for is to work with different mediums and to be more experimental in addition to teaching traditional techniques."
Opening night for the exhibit, which closes today, also featured musical performances by several of the students, including Marvin Wellons' Celtic band.
Wellons, who was born in the Philippines, was adopted at the age of 8 and had requested a family in America. His artwork reflects the landscapes and beauty Bristol has to offer, but he said he is moved by memories of his former home, an orphanage in the Philippines.
"I enjoy the landscapes, animals, and the overall beauty of the country," Wellons said. "I grew up taking care of other kids in the orphanage. I love working with babies and kids. I just love being with kids."
Wellons hopes to someday make a living with his talents, either in masonry, designing, or in linoleum block carving, which he claims is his favorite medium.
"I just want to encourage anybody else out there who loves art to go ahead and do it," he said. "Enjoy the beauty of it and know that it brings good change in a person and is a wonderful way of glorifying God."
Thompson said she too hopes to make a living with her artwork.
She began drawing at age 6, but recently took some time off, after injuring her hand while working on a linoleum block cutting. She said she prefers oil paints, but has branched into photography and digital imagery, under encouragement from Presnell.
Thompson's mother, Katherine Thompson, said her daughter's talents are stronger now.
"She took a semester off, but has been revitalized this year," Katherine Thompson said. "It took a while to heal."
Katherine Thompson also said her daughter's work tends toward classical art as opposed to modern, abstract styles. "More Michelangelo, less Warhol," she said.
Both students credit much of their success to their instructor.
"I look up to Mrs. Presnell," Wellons said. "She introduced me to art and I was introduced to her at a young, impressionable age. I grew up watching her and her teaching and absolutely love the way she expresses herself."
Presnell said she offers her students, of all ages, just a few basic ideas. She tells them "to draw what you see and not what you think is there and not what you've been programmed to believe."
Thanks to the exhibit at the library, Presnell said, many people have become the classes for students and adults.
"We usually get a lot of people who call and want to take classes," she said. "People who come out and see the work come out to the library for meetings. The artwork reaches out to surrounding areas such as the William King art center in Abingdon and private residence exhibits, which has taken place for three years now."
She said she asks her students about their goals for the class, and usually they tell her they just want to have fun. But she encourages them to broaden their outlook as they reach toward their personal goals.
"Some want to do it to improve what they are doing and some want to do it professionally," she said. "I have had students who graduate and go on to four-year universities and are successful professional artists. I just tell them to strive for their personal goals."
The Young at Art program is open to all ages. For more information on annual exhibits or art classes, contact Carlene Presnell at (423) 967-6797, or visit: www.bristol-library.org.