By Stephanie Choate
Artists’ Mediums’ new artist-in-residence program with local artist Gwendolyn Evans encourages everyone to do art, no matter the excuse.
“She’s great for the people who say, ‘Oh no, I can’t even draw a straight line,’” said Artists’ Mediums’ co-owner Kristin Richland.
Evans, as she puts it, happens to be blind.
“I happen to think drawing a straight line is boring,” she said.
Evans plans to work on her art in Artists’ Mediums’ several afternoons a month, using it as a fresh studio space and interacting with members of the public. Residents can come watch her work, see and touch her art, as well as purchase it.
“I try to create art that’s not only visually pleasing but tactilely pleasing as well,” Evans said.
Evans also shares her creative process and artistic insight.
“It also gives me a chance to educate people that you don’t have to have vision to create art,” she said.
Her art is tactile, whimsical and inspired by nature, mythology or moods. She works with brightly colored, and often sparkly, polymer clay, textured paper and acrylic paint.
Richland said she and the store’s co-owners decided to start the program in part because it is educational.
“Even practiced artists like to see the stages of how a piece is created,” Richland wrote in an email to the Observer. “It can give beginners a chance to see that artwork doesn’t have to be perfect from the first step, and that there are several directions every piece of artwork could take.”
The program also helps provide valuable feedback for the artist Richland said.
“The Artist-in-Residence program also brings in an energy we feel is important in an art store: things are being made!” she wrote. “Many customers love coming in and smelling the aroma of art supplies (linseed oil, paper, clay, canvas, etc.) and imagining what they might create. Having an artist making art right here, right now is another way to inspire them.”
Evans, who had partial vision until she was 22, said she has color memory and has systems in place to help her organize color. She is also not afraid to ask questions, she said.
Evans worked in human services until she took a class in 1996 that introduced her to polymer clay, hooking her on the art world.
“I didn’t do much with art until it just kept bubbling up,” she said.
From polymer clay, she decided to move into painting.
“I thought ‘this is kind of crazy…. But this is a really important adventure for me to have,’” she said.
Aside from working on her own art, Evans now teaches art through VSA Vermont, the state organization on arts and disability, and provides arts access consulting.
Evans said it took a while for her to “come out of the artist closet,” but now it is a crucial form of self-expression for her.
“I tap into a part of myself while I’m doing this creative process,” she said. “It’s a deeper, more meaningful process than I imagined it could be.”
Evans said working at Artists’ Mediums’ helps strike a balance between working alone and working within an artist community.
“The energy is great here,” she said. “This is like my home away from home. It’s the only place I can come and have a conversation about color and people don’t think I’m nuts.”
Evans’ next appearances at Artists’ Mediums are scheduled for June 10, 11 and 17, from 1 to 5 p.m. each day.